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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4 Simple Financial Analyses to Help Measure the Success of Your Small Business

As the year draws to a close, many small business owners are taking stock of their business, basking in their successes and trying to comprehend their mistakes.  Unfortunately a big picture view does not always immediately reveal itself– a thorough understanding of your business requires at least some analysis and introspection.  You may be tempted to look at cash (or lack thereof) in your bank account or your net profit , however these are not always reliable indicators of success or failure , particularly when taken in isolation.  Every small business owner should identify the specific needs and constraints of their business to determine the optimal analysis  required to assess its financial performance.  Some general analysis that most businesses can benefit from are presented below:
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How to Change Your Personal Tax Return After It Has Been Filed

Despite your best efforts (and/or your accountants’), occasional errors or omissions relating to your personal tax return are unavoidable.  It is possible that you forgot to include a tax slip, overstated your expenses or was unaware of a specific tax credit.  Luckily there is fairly simple mechanism that allows you to change your tax return, which can be done online or by filling out a form and mailing it in.
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What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Income Tax Instalments

One of the more difficult aspects of the transition from employment to small business ownership is having to cultivate a whole new level of discipline.  You can no longer rely on your employer to take care of business obligations that do not relate to your job ,and must take a much more active role in ensuring that you remain on top of your business obligations whether it is collecting payments from customers, paying bills or ensuring that you do not run afoul of Revenue Canada.  One of these obligations is that you are now responsible for remitting your own, which is done via the mechanism of instalment payments.
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Small Business Survival Statistics and 9 Steps to Improve your Chances of Sticking Around

The temptation to start a small business or venture into self employment can be strong particularly for those who are unhappy with their existing employment situation.    The freedom and flexibility that being your own boss seems to offer can be seductive, as is the potential for growth which you, as the business owner, can have full control over.  You may have an idea or a particular skill that you believe is desirable to a specific target market and you are confident that once this target market is aware of your existence they will all be banging down your door.  Consequently, you start your business by offering an amazing product or services, only to realize that building up a customer base is more challenging than you thought.  Additionally, there are a number of other obstacles for which you do not have the expertise (done by another department when you were an employee) whether it is marketing, website development, legal research and accounting.   Finally, you realize that you actually need a fairly sizable source of cash to maintain the business, deal with growth opportunities, whilst ensuring that you are able to support yourself.

The chart below, published by Statistics Canada available Key Business Statistics – July 2012 (this seems to be the latest data that is available), demonstrates the percentage of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that actually survive over a five year period.

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