Should you Register or Incorporate Your Small Business?

One of first decisions you have to make when embarking on your small business venture is the type of business structure to select.  There are essentially two choices – business registration (sole proprietorship or partnership) or incorporation.  Like many small business decisions, the answer can be ambiguous and depends on the business owner’s specific set of circumstances

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Guidance on Deducting Home Office Expenses

One of the great benefits of working from home for freelancers, the self employed and small business owners is that you can deduct the costs relating to the space that you use to work.  This can result in a significant reduction in your tax bill for costs that you would incur regardless, giving you one more reason to love being your own boss.

Criteria for Deductibility:

For home office expenses to be deductible, they have to meet the following criteria: 

  • It has to be your principal place of business i.e. you cannot deduct home office expenses if you have another office that relates to your business, elsewhere, even if you work 22 hours a day or you check your blackberry in bed.
  • The space designated as your home office is used to earn business income and/or you meet clients or customers on a regular basis.  You can deduct expenses relating to the workspace in your garage which is used for home improvement projects.
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Pricing Small Business Services: 3 Considerations

One of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business is knowing what to charge for your services.  In economics terms, the ideal price is where demand meets supply.  The problem, of course, is that at the beginning we tend to have a lot more supply than demand. This can lead to imprudent pricing decisions. Below are 3 considerations to take into account when determining the price for your services:

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8 Inexpensive Ways to Build a Client Base

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of starting a new small service based business is building a client base.  On the other hand, there is nothing quite so exciting as getting those first few clients. 

When trying to generate new business, it is important to cast a wide net as you never know where potential clients may be lurking.  There are many ways to build a client base, even with limited resources.  I have outlined some below:

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Prevent Cash Flow Crises with these Ten Tips:

One of the most pervasive problems that face small business owners, particularly in the initial and growth stage of their enterprise, is maintaining sufficient cash flow.  Many businesses with great potential have suffered an untimely demise due to their inability to pay their suppliers, employees and revenue agencies (always pay your government obligations otherwise Revenue Canada and Quebec will take matters into their own hands and potentially freeze your bank accounts).   Often these issues can be prevented through a greater awareness of your small business’ cash flow requirements along with a proactive mindset.  This list focuses on ten different ways you can manage this process to reduce the number of potential crises that arise:

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Guidelines For Deducting Conference and Training Expenses

Attending conferences and investing in ongoing training can be a great way for small business owners to keep current on industry developments and improve their skills.  It also allows for networking opportunities and occasionally includes trips to exotic locations (and Las Vegas), which can be a nice break.  The best part is that the cost of both the events and travel are deductible against your business income, subject to specific guidelines discussed below.

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5 Income Tax Tips from the Trenches

It is the time of year when many accountants and tax preparers live, breathe, eat and sleep taxes (leaving very little time to write about them!).  And while much of it is routine, there are numerous issues that arise, the treatment for which is not immediately apparent and can actually be quite interesting (perhaps more so to a tax nerd), some of which are compiled below:

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What Small Business Owners need to know about Tax Filing Deadlines for 2014

One of the responsibilities of being a small business owner requires having to submit a variety of tax declarations by specific deadlines or face consequences that involve penalties, interest and if left long enough, aggressive letters from Revenue Canada and Revenue Quebec.  The bad news is that there is no way around it and ignoring it does not make it go away.  The good news is that if you are prepared and organized it doesn’t have to be painful and can actually be quite straightforward with the right infrastructure.  The first step is to be aware of the deadlines and understand the obligations that go along with it:

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9 Year End Tax Planning Tips for Small Business Owners

As the end of the year draws nigh, it is time for business owners everywhere to start contemplating some end of year tax planning tips to not only ensure that they can maximize their tax deductions and reduce taxes payable, but to streamline the tax filing process in the New Year.  Even if you are incorporated and your year end date is not December 31st, it is a good time to take advantage of calendar year deadlines for personal tax planning purposes.

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What to Do When your Tax Obligations are Overdue

Small business owners have the added responsibility of ensuring that they are aware of, and comply with, a variety of tax obligations.  For some, this can be somewhat overwhelming, resulting in an accumulation of government notices, assessments, requests for information etc. that just add to stress levels.  While ignoring the problem, hoping that it will go away, may seem like an attractive option, it is important to note that the revenue agencies never forget.  They are also both able and willing to take extreme measures to collect upon what they perceive to be unpaid debts eg. Freeze your bank accounts.
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Consider These Financial and Tax Implications When Buying a Home

The Canadian real estate market has been a good place to invest in recent years, although comparisons to the US real estate bubble, which finally culminated in 2008, are continuing to intensify. Potential homeowners often find themselves seduced by their vision of the perfect home in the perfect neighbourhood and end up in a difficult situation, referred to as “house poor”, where the majority of their disposable income goes to paying down their mortgages.  This can be avoided by ensuring that you realistically assess what you can afford and being financially responsible. 

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What Small Business Owners Should Know about Leasing vs Buying their Car, Corporate Ownership of Vehicles and Deducting Car Expenses

Small business owners who require a vehicle to carry on their businesses are happily able to benefit from a tax deduction relating to the business use of their cars.  Given the potential for abuse, the tax rules for deducting these expenses are fairly specific and extend to the definition of business use, types of expenses that may be claimed, methods of calculating the deduction and whether you buy or lease your car.  While the decision to buy or lease a car can be difficult enough for individuals (a Porsche is so much more affordable when you lease!), small business owners have an even harder time as the tax implications of the transaction have to be taken into consideration.
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Last Minute Guidance and Information for Tax Filers

Accountants and tax preparers all over Canada are waiting with bated breath for the end of April and dreaded busy season, when sleep will no longer be a luxury and dreams cease to be tax reconciliation exercises.  At this point in the month, most tax filers have submitted their info and efiled (or mailed in) their tax returns.  Of course, there are always a few stragglers (accountants among them) who have either have not had the time to prepare their tax files or simply tend towards the easy yet stressful path of procrastination. For those that are in the straggler category, below is some guidance to help facilitate the process:
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7 Measures in the 2013 Federal Budget that Affect Your Small Business

While the Federal 2013 budget or the (more interestingly named) Economic Action Plan delivered on March 21, 2013 was not earth shattering in any way, it is interesting to note how well Canada is performing relative to other countries in the G7.  According to the EAP, The Canadian economy has experienced the best performance among the Group of Seven (G-7) countries over the recovery, with the strongest record of economic growth and job creation.  950,000 jobs have been created since July 2009, the majority of which are full time positions in high wage industries. Additonally, Canada is only G-7 country to also have more than fully recovered business investment loss during the recession.  And although the recovery has been broad based, investment in the manufacturing sector has been particularly strong.

The EAP also notes that while GDP growth over the next five years remains unchanged, expected growth for 2013 has been revised to 1.6% down from 2.0%.  This will be offset by higher estimated growth between 2015 and 2017.  Consequently, economists expect lower inflation in 2013.  The CPI inflation in January 2013, compared with the prior year, was 0.5% while inflation for all of 2013 is expected to be lower than average at 1.3%.   They also expect that the Canadian dollar will remain at par with the US dollar.

The 2013 budget introduces and extends certain initiatives for small business, while also impacting taxes payable for small business owners:

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Tax Tidbits for Small Business Owners: Hiring Credit, NAICS Code and EI Contributions for Corporate Owners

It can be difficult for small business owners to keep on top of the myriad of tax rules, interpretations and changes.  Whether you depend on your accountant or take a more active role in the administration of your business, being aware of the rules can help save you money, time and the displeasure of the revenue agencies  .  Below are some tax issues that have come up recently for my clients.
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Are you Ready to Make the Transition to Self-Employment

There are many employees out there to whom the promise of self-employment aka freelancing aka independent consulting (all of whom are ultimately small business owners) seems extremely appealing  (particularly with a comfortable pair of pajamas).  You might crave the feeling of accomplishment that is no longer possible at your current place of employment; you might want greater flexibility or feel that you are not being compensated enough for your skills or perseverance.  Or you simply might want a change of pace.

While being self-employed can accomplish all of these goals, the transition itself is not as simple as it might seem nor is it the right decision for everybody.  There are many factors that need to be considered and many mental and financial preparations that should be made prior to taking this potentially life altering decision.

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Information on Filing T4s/RL-1s and T4As for Small Business Owners

When I was employee I never really gave much thought to the T4 (and the Quebec equivalent RL-1) process .  I suppose I expected that someone, somewhere pressed a button and they would magically appear as an envelope on my desk.  As I transitioned to being an independent small business accountant, who was now responsible for preparing this information and providing guidance to my clients, I realized that the process was somewhat more complicated.  Luckily there is software and a variety of resources to help you with the process.  
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Highlights of Changes to Federal and Quebec Personal Tax Rates, Credits and Amounts for 2013.

Every year Revenue Canada and Quebec increase the thresholds for tax and benefit amounts to reflect annual inflation rates which is based on the consumer price index data compiled by Statistics Canada. The information is communicated via a neatly organized table on their website, to which links are provided below, for those of you who can’t get enough financial data.  For everyone else I have highlighted some of the more interesting changes
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Guidance on QST Change in 2013 and Updating your Accounting Software

For the third year in a row, the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) will be changing.  Fortunately, the change is not to the rate, which effectively remains the same, but rather an effort to harmonize the QST with the GST. Consequently, the most significant change is the method by which the rate is calculated.

In the past, the QST used to be calculated on the total sale plus GST.  As a result the published rate was 9.5% while the effective rate was actually 9.975%.  The harmonization of the GST and the QST requires that the QST be charged on the sale amount only, without the GST.  As such the published rate and the effective rate will both be 9.975%.  This is illustrated below:

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10 Year End Tax Strategies to help Small Business Owners Improve their Bottom Line

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us and the end of the year is fast approaching.  While it is quite a nice time of year (cold weather notwithstanding) there are many additional stresses –purchasing the perfect Christmas sweater, managing the logistics of family holiday time, making travel arrangements, all while trying to not to gain a million pounds.  This can be especially trying for the small business owner, who in addition to managing their business and the holidays, must carve out some time to ensure that there are ready for year end and maximizing their tax deductions while also planning for next year.  To help ease the stress I have compiled a list of tax tips to contemplate:
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