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5 Items that are NOT business expenses

A lot of business owners are guilty of keeping receipts for items that cannot be claimed as a business expense. To save money on your bookkeeping, by limiting the amount of time your bookkeeper spends sorting through receipts, leave the following receipts out of your folder.

1. Clothes

You may also be required to wear a certain type of outfit to work on a regular basis such as a suit. However, unless you are buying specific safety gear or are required to wear a branded uniform any clothes you purchase are considered a PERSONAL NOT BUSINESS expense. This includes associated costs such as dry cleaning and laundry services.

I know this is a terrible reality for most of us in particular for all of the office workers out there. As much as we wish things were different (we too would like to get some money back for looking this good on a daily basis) the CRA just won’t budge on this one.

Until the day when we start a revolution by wearing burlap sacks in protest please refrain from sneaking your clothing purchase receipts into your bookkeeping folder.

2. Personal maintenance

When you are the face of your company or the company you work for it’s important to look the part. This can be expense we all know Botox, makeup and personal training isn’t cheap!!

That said the CRA wants you to be beautiful on your own dime. Clearly this faceless monster doesn’t understand the pressures of being a local celebrity.

Again until we find a way to make them understand how important looking and feeling good is when you are a business owner please keep these receipts out of your bookkeeping.

3. Groceries

Eating is expensive!!! It would be really nice to get some of that money back on your food consumption especially considering that majority of your eating takes place while working.

Twice a year you can throw a party and claim it as a business expense. Keep that in mind when gathering your receipts.

Anything more than that is just groceries for your family, you know it…we know it…and the CRA will know!!

 

4. Solo Meals

So you ordered Subway for one during your lunch time “business meeting”…hmmmm interesting. Unless you went Dutch, which we know you didn’t, you can’t claim single meals as a business expense without running the risk of having it rejected during an audit. In addition your three daily trips to Starbucks don’t count as business meetings.

The best way to protect yourself and prove that your “meeting” is legitimate, in the event of an audit, is to write the name of the person you were meeting on the meal receipt.

Rejection = Penalties and interest

5. Personal items, trips & gifts

Did you really purchase that tent for your business trip to Pemberton? We may accept this as true if you are a journalist who works for a local paper that rewards you with love not money, or more logically a tour guide. But when the average business owner adds this receipt to their folder the bookkeeper will automatically assume it is personal unless you make a note claiming why it is a business expense.

Tickets to Disneyland, ski passes, expensive artwork, adult toys and climbing the grouse grind to have lunch will also be filed by your bookkeeper under “I don’t think so” unless you write a convincing argument on your receipt in advance.

 

The main thing to know about bookkeepers is that we want to make sure your expenses are recorded correctly so that if you are audited you have nothing to worry about because all of your expenses are legitimate business expenses that would be approved by the CRA.

To find out more about how we can help you with your business or to determine if you have some expenses that are an exception to the rule contact us today.

Employee VS Contractor – CRA Penalties for incorrect worker classification

File:US Navy 080823-N-1328S-003 Steel Worker 3rd Class Michael Featherston and Constructionman Steven Cline, both assigned to Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 embarked about the Military Sealift Command hospital ship US.jpg

Over the past month we have been exploring the topic of hiring new staff and how to determine if you should hire your new worker as an employee or as a contractor.

Last weeks post explored, in more detail, the CRA checklist that you need to refer to when determining how your new staff should be classified. Following on from last week, today’s post will outline the CRA penalties that you will incur if you do not abide by this checklist as well as provide you with insight into what might cause the CRA to investigate you.

What you need to know about the CRA

The first thing you need to consider when classifying your workers is that when you are paying them as contractors the CRA is not receiving payroll taxes from your business.

Avoiding payroll taxes may feel like a small WIN. However, you need to remember that the CRA, much like your business, does not like to experience a loss.

The unfortunate difference between the CRA and most small businesses is that when the CRA feels like they may be owed money, they have the power to come after you and make your life very uncomfortable.

Red Flags

The CRA may chose to review your business at anytime however there are some common factors  that usually  trigger an investigation.

  1. When your contractor files their tax return, the CRA may choose to audit them to ensure they have listed the correct income. This will lead to them investigating and interviewing all of the contractors clients which will include you.

  2. The top two expenses for most businesses are rent and payroll. If your return shows that one of your top expenses is contractors then the CRA will more than likely view that as a red flag and investigate you.

  3. Your worker may try to apply for EI and discover they are not eligible due to the fact that you were paying them as a contractor. This could lead to them asking the CRA for a ruling.

  4. Your worker at any point can request a ruling if they feel that you are paying them incorrectly.

  5. Come tax time when you worker discovers they owe money to the CRA for unpaid taxes they may become disgruntled and  request a ruling.

If you are investigated the CRA will interview you and your contractors face-to-face and make a ruling that is based on your answers to the checklist questions that we discussed last week.

Consequences

If the CRA investigates your business and determines that you have incorrectly categorized and paid a worker as a contractor when they should have been paid as an employee, you will experience the following penalties:

  1. You will need to back pay (to the start date of your agreement with the worker) all outstanding payroll taxes INCLUDING  the employee’s portion.

  2. You will also need to pay penalties and interest on the amount that was overdue.

All expenses will be incurred by your business and cannot be passed on to the worker in any circumstances.

The cost associated with the CRA ruling that your contractor should have been an employee can be crippling to your small business. That is why we recommend that you thoroughly read through the checklist and if at any point you are uncertain you contact the CRA and get a ruling.

In addition to affecting your business, the investigation can affect your contractors. If they have claimed a different amount on their return to what your records show, they too will experience penalties.

Lessons

Make sure you encourage your contractors to declare their income correctly. Inform them that you will be declaring the full amount they are going to charge and that you don’t want to see them incur any penalties.

Study the CRA checklist and make sure you are confident that you have categorized your worker correctly. If you are unsure contact the CRA and ask for a ruling, the short term pain will result in long term gain.

Use your common sense, if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, chances are it is a duck!!!. So if you hire someone who resembles a standard employee within your industry chances are the CRA will rule that you should be paying them as one.

If you don’t need a full time worker yet the job requires you to hire an employee, hire an on call employee or use a temp agency. Temp agencies include payroll in their fees so you are covered.

We cannot reiterate enough how important it is that you make sure you categorize your workers correctly and that when in doubt you contact the CRA.

 

How to start your own business in BC

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Most people assume when taking the plunge into self-employment by starting their own small business that there are going to be a million forms to sign and government entities that need to be registered with before you are cleared by the CRA to begin working.

But that is not the case at all.

The following breakdown will hopefully clarify just how simple it is (from a tax perspective, because let’s be honest becoming successfully self-employed is no easy feat!!!) to get your new business tax ready in BC.

Trading under your personal name

The quickest way to get your business up and running is to trade under your own name (eg. Teya Mali trading as Teya Mali).

From the CRA’s perspective when you trade under your own name you can begin trading immediately and no business registration is necessary.

All the CRA cares about in this instance is that you are honest come tax time and declare all of your income and expenses correctly.

Trading Under A Business Name

Trading under a name other than your own isn’t quite as simple and does require some paperwork. However, it is still not as overwhelming as you may think.

You can have your business up and running in four easy steps.

  1. Firstly you need to register your business name. This can be done for a cost of $30 through the BC Registry One Stop BC service.
  2. Determine your business structure. Do you want to be a sole proprietor, partnership, or incorporation? (If you are a solo entrepreneur working from home, I would highly recommend that you start off as a sole proprietor to keep things simple. You can always incorporate later. There are MANY rules (that are governed by penalties) that you need to comply with once you become incorporated. So again, I recommend that you hold off until your business has expanded).You can register your sole proprietorship for $40 through the BC Registry One Stop BC service
  3. Determine if you need to charge sales tax. If you are selling retail products, you will need to register for PST. Homeroom can do this on your behalf or you can register yourself on the BC Government site.  (Please note: until you have incurred SALES of $30000 in a calendar year, you ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REGISTER FOR GST so save your money and wait)
  4. Apply for a business licence. The application fee is $50 with an annual fee that varies depending on your location.

Although getting your business set up correctly with the CRA is a relatively simple process you must remember that your paperwork doesn’t necessarily end there and that you still need to consider your insurance needs, budgets, inventory tracking, invoicing and of course bookkeeping.

We recommend checking out Small Business BC Website which is a great online resource with a lot of helpful information on how to start a small business.

Additionally we recommend that you begin keeping all of your business related receipts from the moment you decide to venture out on your own. Even if you haven’t started making sales, you can still write-off business expenses as you develop your idea . That said, you should note that you can only write of an expense in the year that it occurred, so make sure you talk to your bookkeeper in advance and plan the best time to make larger purchases.

Home office tax deductions

Home Office

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Do you know how to properly claim your home office as an expense?

In order to deduct expenses, the work space must either be:

  • the place where the individual principally (more than 50% of the time) performs administration or employment duties,or

  • used on a regular and continuous basis, for meeting customers or other persons in the ordinary course of performing the office or employment duties.

If you meet the requirements of either description above, you are eligible to deduct your work space related expenses.

However the following rules apply:

  • Your claim cannot exceed the annual gross income that you generated from your office or employment
  • Your office or employment expenses cannot create or increase your annual loss for income tax purposes.
  • If the expenses related to a work space cannot be deducted in a taxation year, the expenses will be carried forward to the following year. In the case that you are an employee who works from home your expenses carry forward so long as you are reporting income from the same employer.
  • Regardless of whether you own or rent your home, your work space expenses are considered a reasonable portion of expenses you pay for the maintenance of your home. The cost of fuel, electricity, light bulbs, cleaning materials and minor repairs can be claimed.
  • If the work space is part of a rented home, a reasonable proportion of the rent is otherwise deductible. However, no deduction can be made for the rental value of the work space area if you own your home.
  • Consequently, if you are not a commission sales employee expenses on account of capital cost allowance, taxes, insurance and mortgage interest cannot be deducted.
  • If you are a commission sales employee and are entitled to claim expenses, a reasonable proportion of the taxes and insurance paid on your owned home. However, no mortgage interest or capital cost allowance can be deducted.

Calculating the percentage you can claim

1. Determine what percentage of your homes total floor space is taken up by your home office.

Eg. Client A has an office that takes up 10% of the total floor space of thier home.

2. Determine what percentage of your time spent in your home office is for employment purposes and for personal purposes

Eg. Client A is using their office for employment purposes 60% of the time while the remaining 40% of the time it is used for personal purposes.

3. Use these percentages to calculate the percentage of your total home expenses that you can deduct.

Eg. In the case presented 6% of Client A’s  home maintenance costs are deductible  (60% (time used for employment purposes) of 10% (size of the space in relation to the house))

What can you consider supplies?

The word supplies is limited to materials that are used up directly in the performance of the duties of the employment.

They include:

  • long-distance telephone calls and cellular telephone airtime that reasonably relate to the earning of employment income and various stationery items.

Supplies do not include:

  • the monthly basic service charge for a telephone line, amounts paid to connect or licence a cellular telephone, special clothing customarily worn or required to be worn by employees in the performance of their duties, and any types of tools which generally fall into the category of equipment.

Sole Proprietors:

You can deduct expenses for the business use of a work space in your home, as long as you meet one of the following conditions:

  • it is your principal place of business; or

  • you use the space only to earn your business income, and you use it on a regular and ongoing basis to meet your clients, customers, or patients.

You can deduct part of your maintenance costs such as heat, home insurance, electricity, and cleaning materials. You can also deduct part of your property taxes, mortgage interest, and CCA.

To calculate the part you can deduct, use a reasonable basis such as the area of the work space divided by the total area of your home.

If you use part of your home for both your business and personal living, calculate how many hours in the day you use the rooms for your business, and then divide that amount by 24 hours.

If you rent your home, you can deduct part of the rent and any expenses you incur that relate to the work space.

The amount you can deduct for business use of home expenses cannot be more than your net income from the business before you deduct these expenses. In other words, you cannot use these expenses to increase or create a business loss.

Salaried employees:

You can deduct expenses you paid for the employment use of a work space in your home, as long as you had to pay for them under your contract of employment.

These expenses must be used directly in your work and your employer has not reimbursed and will not reimburse you. Also, you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • The work space is where you mainly (more than 50% of the time) do your work.

  • You use the work space only to earn your employment income. You also have to use it on a regular and continuous basis for meeting clients or customers.

You can deduct the part of your costs that relates to your work space, such as the cost of electricity, heating, and maintenance. You cannot deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance, or capital cost allowance.

If your office space is in a rented house or apartment where you live, deduct the percentage of the rent as well as any maintenance costs you paid that relates to the work space.

Commission employees:

You can deduct expenses you paid for the employment use of a work space in your home, as long as you meet one of the following conditions:

  • The work space is where you mainly (more than 50% of the time) do your work.

  • You use the work space only to earn your employment income. You also have to use it on a regular and continuous basis for meeting clients and customers.

You can deduct the part of your costs that relates to your work space, such as the cost of electricity, heating, maintenance, property taxes, and home insurance. However, you cannot deduct mortgage interest or capital cost allowance.

To calculate the percentage of work space expenses you can deduct, use a reasonable basis, such as the area of the work space divided by the total finished area (including hallways, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.).

For maintenance costs, it may not be appropriate to use a percentage of these costs. For example, if the expenses you paid (such as cleaning materials or paint) were to maintain a part of the house that was not used as a work space, then you cannot deduct any part of them. Alternatively, if the expenses you paid were to maintain the work space only, then you may be able to deduct all or most of them.

If your office space is in a rented house or apartment where you live, deduct the percentage of the rent and any maintenance costs you paid that relate to the work space.

 

 Small Business Consulting