How to Register a Small Business in Quebec

Many budding business owners are interested in setting up a small business or becoming self employed, either on a full time or part time basis, but are not really sure where to start.  The process of registering a business in Quebec, depending on your circumstances,  can actually be quite simple or it can be a little more involved.  Below we look at the questions that you need answer to determine your business registration obligations:
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Should you register for GST/HST and QST and What it Means to Be Zero Rated

One of the first tax questions you will be faced with as a small business owner or self employed worker is whether you need to register for GST/HST & QST.  The answer in most cases is that if you anticipate that your annual gross revenues (total sales) are going to exceed $30,000, then you should register for GST/HST and QST UNLESS you are considered to be providing a zero rated or tax exempt product or service, in which case you are not required to register.

A more detailed analysis of whether you are required to register for GST-QST

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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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Should You Pay Yourself a Salary or Dividend? 7 Considerations For Small Business Owners

While incorporation has many benefits for small business owners, it does introduce additional complexities that are not faced by registered  businesses.  Unincorporated business owners are essentially taxed on their net business income, which allows for more time to devote to tax planning and how to spend all of your richly deserved profits.   Incorporated business owners, on the other hand,  cannot just withdraw cash from their businesses as the need or whim arises.  There needs to be a formalized structure in place which usually takes the form of either salary or dividends.  Either type of remuneration has tax and other implications that need to be considered before making a decision. 

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Tax Tips: Car Expenses and Benefits

Access to a car can be crucial to running a small business effectively.  Costs of ownership, however, can be onerous, especially in the early stages when your business is not hugely profitable.  Luckily, Revenue Canada allows individuals and corporations who use their cars to generate income to deduct the expenses and actually provides fairly comprehensive (i.e. complex) guidance to this end.  Below are some of the main provisions that impact small business owners:
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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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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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Tax Filings for a Typical Canadian Small Business

When starting a business, it can be confusing and a little overwhelming to keep on top of the different types of tax filings that need to be submitted and the timing on each one.  Documents received from the government are not always clear as to what needs to be done, particularly if you are not familiar with what they are asking for.  It can be easy to put them aside to deal with them later, however this will usually result in more letters and if left for long enough, arbitrary assessments and interest and penalties. It is therefore prudent for registered and incorporated businesses to keep on top of their tax filing.
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Guidance on Deducting Home Office Expenses

One of the benefits of having a home based business (for freelancers, self employed contractors and small business owners) is that you can deduct the expenses 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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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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Invest in RRSPs or Repay your Mortgage?

One of the most common questions asked by Canadian taxpayers is whether they should use their excess disposable income to invest in RRSPs or pay down their mortgage.  Since contributions to an RRSP are made on a tax free basis,  reduction in taxes payable can be substantial.  Conversely,  higher mortgage payments can result in significantly lower interest expense.  As such, there several factors to consider when deciding which option is better:
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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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To Inc. or Not To Inc.

The decision to incorporate is one that most small businesses face at some point in their lifetime.  Incorporation, literally, represents the creation of a new person.  Whereas a sole proprietorship is an extension of one's self, a corporation takes on a life of it's own; it can give birth to subsidiary, marry via a merger and die with a dissolution.  It has to file it's own tax return, can be sued and has a set of rules that govern it's existence.  Below are some of the points to consider when deciding whether to incorporate:

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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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GST and QST Considerations For New Business Owners

The Goods and Services Tax or GST is a consumption tax that is charged on most goods and services sold within Canada, regardless of where your business is located.  Subject to certain exceptions, all businesses are required to charge GST , currently at 5%, plus applicable provincial sales taxes.  A business effectively acts as an agent for Revenue Canada by collecting the taxes and remitting them on a periodic basis.  Businesses are also permitted to claim the taxes paid on expenses incurred that relate to their business activities.  These are referred to as Input Tax Credits.

Does Your Business Need to Register?

Prior to engaging in any kind of commercial activity in Canada, all business owners need to determine how the GST and relevant provincial taxes apply to them. Essentially, all businesses that sell goods and services in Canada, for profit, are required to charge GST, except in the following circumstances:

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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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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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