When it comes to your business, to use a sports analogy, are you reviewing the score at the end of the game, or making in-game adjustments? Which one sounds like a more successful strategy? Any good coach will tell you that adjusting in-game will result in a higher win rate. Adjusting in-game allows you to pivot as things change and stay nimble. You may need to change your strategy to the changing environment.
When you meet with your accountant at the end of the year, you are reviewing the score and seeing where you did well, and where you could use improvement. When you review monthly or quarterly reports from your accountant, you are able to adjust “in-game”, and see where you are weak, and are able to make the necessary changes in order to “win” or come out ahead. Sure, reviewing the score after the game will allow you to revise your long-term strategy, and plan for the future, but if you are having a cash-crunch in the first quarter, reviewing the full year a few months after the year-end doesn’t help much. If you had known a cash-crunch was imminent, you could have made changes immediately, such as having your collections department follow up on old receivables, and delaying capital projects to a later date.
It is important to develop the right metrics to measure. Of course you’ll want to look at Net Income, Gross Profit, and other traditional metrics, but you also want to develop specific metrics for your business. For example, if you sell 4 different products, at 4 different price points, with 4 different costs, you’ll want to measure each one separately. Which product is your most profitable? Which product sells the most? Which product takes up the most of your team’s time? If you know these things, you’ll know where to focus your energy and attention, and when to remove a product that isn’t doing well or profitable.
We’re encouraging our clients to a move to a monthly or quarterly model with their bookkeepers. We’ve recently hired a bookkeeper so that we can provide this type of service, and we feel it adds a lot of value for our clients. If your bookkeeper isn’t doing this with you, or if you aren’t actually reading the reports, make sure you do, so that you are reacting “in-game” and not after its too late.
Everyone's favourite dinner conversation - Real Estate! Many people have made a lot of money in real estate buying, selling, flipping etc. Maybe you're now being taxed half to death, so you are debating between moving or converting part of your house to a rental suite. Vancouver and the surrounding areas are encouraging density, so many lots are now zoned for laneway homes. Vancouver has restrictions on short-term rentals for laneway homes, so its important to be aware of what is allowed, and what isn't. To curb speculation and discourage empty houses, there have been rules put in place to tax empty homes. If you have been in a coma for the past few years, things have changed dramatically in all manners relating to real estate in Vancouver, and its time to get up to speed. With the increases in property value in real estate, now all levels of government are attempting to take their share of the pie. This post will discuss some of the relatively recent changes that affect real estate.
First let's talk about the federal requirement to report the sale of your principal residence (PR). Starting in 2016, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) started requiring taxpayers to report the sale of their principal residence. In the past, you only had to report the sale of your PR if the property was not your PR for all of the years you owned it. Not reporting this opens you up to a possible fine. This is an example of the increased tracking of the sales of homes that is taking place at the federal level. What are they looking for? CRA is looking for people that are abusing the principal residence exemption. If you sold your principal residence, make sure it is reported on your tax return. If you forgot to report it, in most cases CRA allows a taxpayer to report it under a voluntary disclosure.
Empty home tax (City of Vancouver) - this is a 1% tax levied by the City of Vancouver (COV) on the property's assessed value if the home is empty by the city's definition. Per the COV's website, most homes will not be subject to the tax, as it does not apply to principal residences or homes rented for at least six months of the year; however all homeowners are required to submit a declaration. To get out of the tax, the property has to be rented for at least 6 months during the year in 30 day increments (short-term rentals won't help). Another way is to have a friend or family member move in for at least 6 months and claim it as their principal residence. There are exemptions, such as if the house was empty due to the owner passing away and the house went into the estate. If you have an empty home, or your home is going to be vacant in the future, make sure you know the rules. 1% on an average detached home in Vancouver would be $22,000 according to a recent report (2,200,000 x 1%).
Speculator tax - this is a provincial level tax, that is applicable in certain areas around the province of BC, such as Metro Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria. The rates that apply are gradually going to increase from 2018 to 2019.
Who does it apply to? It applies to second homes, so primary residences are not subject to this tax. What about rentals? Long-term rentals qualify for an exemption. For 2018, homes must be rented out for at least 3 months to qualify for the exemption. In 2019, that goes up to 6 months.
What rate is the tax? In 2018, the tax rate is 0.5% of the property's assessed value. In 2019, it will stay 0.5% for BC residents who are Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents. It will go up to 1% for Canadians and Permanent Residents who are not BC residents. The tax will be 2% for "foreign investors and satellite families."
Is there a tax credit available? There is a tax credit available for B.C. residents. If the second house is $400,000 or less, the credit will offset any tax.
Foreign buyer's tax - this is an additional property transfer tax that is charged when a foreign entity or taxable trustee purchases a property within a specified area of BC. The tax has recently been increased from 15% to 20% and the specified area has been expanded from the GVRD to include the Capital District, the Fraser Valley, the Central Okanagan, and Nanaimo. Purchases before Feb 21, 2018 in the GVRD were subject to the 15% additional tax. Purchases on or after Feb 21, 2018 in the expanded areas are subject to a 20% tax.
In a future post, we'll discuss what happens when change part or all of your principal residence to an income producing property, or vice versa. Just a quick note on the "change in use" rules - make sure you communicate to your accountant that you've made a change in use if you've changed your principal residence to a rental property, or changed a rental property into a principal residence. There is a deemed disposition and re-acquisition that has tax consequences, and there are elections that could help minimize the tax consequences.
If you have any questions about the above, or any other related tax matters, please give our office a call.
Moving your accounting function to the cloud can be a daunting task. In this article, we'll take a brief look at the history, look at how it works, and look at the pros and cons of moving your accounting to a cloud-based software solution, and hopefully you'll have an idea of whether your business is ready.
First, how new is this type of software? Quickbooks Online was introduced in the UK in 2011. It was revamped in 2013, and has grown in popularity to become one of the most used cloud-based accounting software solutions for small businesses. Another popular cloud-based company is Xero. Xero was formed in 2006 in New Zealand, and entered the U.S. market in 2011. Xero officially entered the Canadian market in 2018, although it has been unofficially around for longer than that.
Second, what exactly does the process entail? A typical scenario would be for a business owner to have an app on their phone (like Receipt Bank) and take a picture of a receipt that they just purchased, for example, gas from Chevron. The receipt would be stored in Receipt Bank and the software would recognize the type of receipt (with a high degree of accuracy). The App would be connected to your Accounting Software (QBO or Xero, for example), and would post the receipt to the appropriate expense account (after you told it what the expense was, it would remember that Chevron is for Auto-Gas). At the outset, it would require you to tell the App what the expense was, but after that, the App would know, and would post automatically. You could see how much time this could save if used properly. You could also see how this could go wrong, if it was not set up properly!
- real time accounting
- audit-ready receipts (stored and ready if CRA requests them)
- financial information that is more timely
- accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection
- allows business owners to make decisions in real-time to correct course before things become costly
- potentially cost savings by using data import function by using latest software
To me, the biggest pro I see in this list is having access from anywhere, to your accounting data in real-time. Of course, this will mean having your accountant or bookkeeper stay on top of your accounting throughout the year, and not doing it all right before your company's filing deadline!
- increase software subscription fees (can typically be mitigated by bundling with your accountant's plan)
- security concerns (where is your info being hosted?)
- internet connectivity concerns (could be an issue in remote areas if internet is not consistent)
- learning curve with new software/apps
Most of these can be overcome, but Cloud-based accounting is not for everyone (at least, not yet).
Commonly used accounting software
- Quickbooks Online (QBO)
Other tools you may want to utilize:
- Hub docs
- Receipt bank
- A Scanner (here is one we use)
- Smartphone to scan receipts and upload to Hub docs or Receipt bank
In closing, Cloud-based accounting is not for everyone, but it has the potential to improve the way business owners access their company's financial information. It could improve the decision maker's ability to act on the financial data to make better informed decisions. Let us know if you have any questions about setting your business up with a cloud-based accounting software, and whether your business could benefit from some or all of the latest tools available.
Here is a handy template that can be used to summarize your revenue and expenses for either a real estate rental, self-employment business activities, or for employment expenses. Many of our clients use this template as a way of organizing their information, and it may trigger a reminder to include an expense that you would have otherwise forgotten about. Please download it, fill it out, and bring it in with the rest of your tax information. Let us know if you have any questions about what kind of expenses can be claimed. Click below to download the template.
In this edition:
TAX TICKLERS .…..…........................ 1
DIGITAL CURRENCY ………………….... 1
Basics And Tax Implications
FAMILY MEMBERS..…..……….….... 2
Can I Pay Them a Salary?
CORPORATE PASSIVE INVESTMENT INCOME ………..…... 2
REASONABLE AUTOMOBILE ALLOWANCES …………………………... 3
CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES ........... 4
Reporting Obligations for Subcontractors
U.S. CITIZENS …......………….….…. 4
Risks of Tax Non-Compliance
CRA MOBILE PHONE APPS …........ 5
Tools for Individuals and Businesses
This publication is a high-level summary of the most recent tax developments applicable to business owners, investors, and high net worth individuals. Enjoy!
TAX TICKLERS… some quick points to consider…
What is Digital Currency (DC)?
DC is essentially electronic money. It’s not available as bills or coins. Cryptocurrency is a type of DC created using computer algorithms with the most popular being bitcoin.
No single organization, such as a central bank, creates DC. DC is based on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network. The “peers” in this network are the people that take part in DC transactions, and their computers make up the network.
DC can be used to buy goods and services, whether in store or online. DC may also be bought and sold on open exchanges (similar to a stock market).
DC is often created through a complex process known as “mining” and then monitored by a global network of computers. About 3,600 new bitcoins are created each day, with about 16.5 million now in circulation. Like all currencies, its value is determined by how much people are willing to buy and sell it for.
Tax – Buying and Selling Digital Currency
Gains or losses from selling or buying DCs must be reported on one’s tax return. These may be on account of capital (taxed at half rates) or ordinary income (full rate) depending on the context. It is not clear whether purchases and sales of bitcoins and other DC are subject to GST/HST.
There are no special tax rules directed specifically towards DC. Like any property, where DC is acquired with the primary intention of selling it for a profit, any gains would be on an account of income, rather than capital. Where property is acquired for some other purpose, such as generating ongoing income (like a rental property), the gain or loss on disposition is likely on account of capital.
When evaluating a taxpayer’s intention, CRA will generally consider factors such as: frequency of transactions; period of ownership; knowledge of industry; time spent on the activities; financing; and the nature and quantity of the property held.
It is also important to note that some DC do not produce income (generating neither dividends like a share, nor interest like a loan). With no plausible purpose other than resale, it becomes easier for CRA to take the position that the DC must have been purchased with the intention of selling it at a profit and therefore any gain or loss on disposition is on account of income. This may override the other factors noted above.
That said, CRA has administratively allowed gains on certain commodity investments to be on account of capital, even though they typically appear to be on account of income based on the factors above. One condition of this policy is that all such transactions are treated the same. In other words, one could not simply classify it to be on account of capital in "gain" years, and then income in "loss" years. It is uncertain whether CRA would adopt the same policy for sales of DC.
Tax – Buying and Selling Goods Using Digital Currency
Similar to sales using traditional currency, DC received in exchange for goods or services must be included in the seller’s income for tax purposes. GST/HST would also apply on the fair market value (FMV) of goods or services bought or sold for DC (subject to the same rules as traditional currency). It is not clear whether the DC itself would be subject to GST/HST, meaning that the person using DC to pay for the goods or services would be required to collect GST/HST on the value of the DC.
CRA considers DC to be a commodity rather than a currency and, therefore, transactions involving DC are considered barter transactions. This means that the sale price to be recorded in income would be determined as the FMV of the goods or services provided. If that FMV is less readily available than the FMV of the DC, the value of the DC would be used to determine the sale price.
Also, being a commodity means that these assets are not eligible to be directly held in tax preferred registered accounts (e.g. RRSPs, TFSAs, RRIFs, etc.).
Government Access to Records
The IRS has been successful in issuing an Order compelling one of the world’s largest bitcoin virtual currency exchanges, Coinbase, to disclose certain transaction and user information for the 2013-2015 period. It is very possible that the CRA may obtain such types of information as well.
Action Item: Consider the tax implications (income tax and GST/HST) when investing or conducting business using digital currency.
FAMILY MEMBERS: Can I Pay Them a Salary?
For a small business, whether operated as a corporation, proprietorship or partnership, it is quite possible that relatives of the owners or partners may be engaged as employees. Due to the closer familial relationship between employer and employee, CRA pays particular attention to ensure that the salary is truly an eligible deduction to the business.
According to CRA, salaries to children and spouses are deductible as long as all of these conditions are met:
CRA also states that T4s are required for all employees, including family members, and subject to payroll deductions, as appropriate. Payment in the form of room and board is not accepted by CRA.
CRA suggests that the average salary for an arm’s length person providing similar services under similar conditions would provide guidance as to reasonableness.
Action Item: Consider whether family members can perform services for one’s business, and what level of income is reasonable.
CORPORATE PASSIVE INVESTMENT INCOME: Proposed Changes
A new passive investment tax regime for Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs) is proposed to apply to taxation years commencing after 2018. Passive income may include interest, rental, royalties, dividends from portfolio investments and taxable capital gains.
Two significant changes are proposed. First, a limit to the small business deduction for CCPCs generating significant income from passive assets, and second, a new regime to stream the recovery of refundable tax to the payment of specific types of dividends (eligible versus non-eligible).
Access to the Small Business Deduction (SBD)
The first prong of the proposals will reduce access to the SBD for CCPCs having more than $50,000 of passive income. CCPCs with passive income in excess of the threshold will incrementally lose access to their SBD, until $150,000 of passive income is reached, at which point the entire SBD will be lost. The prior year’s passive income will determine the current year’s SBD limit.
For purposes of these new rules, capital gains on certain types of property will be excluded from being considered passive income. These are as follows:
Capital losses realized in a different taxation year that are applied to offset capital gains realized in the current year will not reduce passive income for these new rules.
Consistent with the existing SBD rules, the sum of passive income of all associated corporations will determine the reduced business limit available to the associated group.
The total advantage or disadvantage of earning passive investment income in a corporation, after considering personal and corporate tax costs, will depend on a number of factors such as the individual’s marginal tax rate, rate of return on the investment and the province or territory of residence.
Recovering Refundable Taxes
Passive income is subject to a high corporate tax rate. However, a portion of these taxes are refunded when the CCPC pays taxable dividends.
The second prong of the passive income proposals will add a new restriction. Recovering refundable taxes will generally require the CCPC to pay out non-eligible dividends. These carry a higher personal tax cost than eligible dividends. The exception will be where refundable taxes arise from the CCPC’s receipt of eligible dividends. Dividends received from most Canadian public corporations are eligible. This portion of the refundable tax can then be recovered when the CCPC pays out eligible dividends.
Action Item: If your corporation has passive earnings in excess of $50,000 and is also earning active business income, prepare for a potentially higher corporate tax bill in the coming years.
REASONABLE AUTOMOBILE ALLOWANCES: GST/HST Claim
A travel allowance paid to an employee for the use of their personal vehicle for business purposes will be non-taxable if it is reasonable.
Where such reasonable allowances are paid, an input tax credit (ITC) may be claimed by the employer. The ITC is computed as the imputed GST/HST in the allowance, without adjustment for the fact that some costs likely did not attract GST/HST. In non-harmonized provinces/territories (such as Alberta and B.C.), the ITC would be 5/105 of the allowance. The ITC in a harmonized province is different. For example, in Ontario, with 13% HST, the ITC would be 13/113 of the allowance. Other HST provinces would apply this formula to their respective rate.
In a November 10, 2017 Tax Court of Canada case, CRA denied ITCs of $4,935 related to motor vehicle allowances paid to employees that were also shareholders. CRA argued that the allowances were not reasonable.
The allowances were based on the maximum per kilometre rates that the employer could deduct. The accounting for the allowances was complicated by the use of fuel cards provided and paid by the customer of the taxpayer. However, a detailed review of the accounting records demonstrated that:
Although the accounting for the allowances was quite complicated, the Court concluded that it complied with the law and ensured the employees received reasonable allowances limited to business driving. The ITCs were, therefore, properly claimed.
Action Item: If paying reasonable allowances to employees, consider claiming an input tax credit in respect of the payment.
CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES: Reporting Obligations for Subcontractors
A July 17, 2017 Technical Interpretation examined the conditions which would require the filing of a T5018, Statement of Contract Payments.
Where a person or partnership primarily derives their business income from construction activities for a reporting period, a T5018 should be filed for any subcontractor payment or credit made relating to goods or services received in the course of construction activities. The reporting period may be a calendar or fiscal year but cannot be changed once selected (unless authorized by CRA).
The term “construction activities” is broadly defined. It includes, for example, the erection, excavation, installation, alteration, modification, repair, improvement, demolition, destruction, dismantling or removal of all or any part of a building, structure, surface or sub-surface construction, or any similar property. Such activities are considered to be those normally associated with the on-site fabrication and erection of buildings, roads, bridges, parking lots, driveways, etc. which are intended to be permanently affixed to the land on which they are built.
It is a question of fact as to whether a particular activity is a construction activity, and whether the business income for the reporting period is derived primarily from such activity. If a T5018 is not required, consideration should be given to the requirement of a T4A, Statement of Pension, Retirement, Annuity, and Other Income.
CRA has also noted that there are businesses that have a significant amount of construction done for them or by them, but the activity is not their principal business. For example, a natural gas company may do a large amount of construction to install pipelines, however, its principal business is gas transmission, not constructing pipelines. It would not be required to file T5018s.
Penalties are levied on the payer when T5018s are not timely filed. Penalties range from $100 to $7,500, depending on the number of T5018s and the number of days they are late.
Action Item: If you are in the construction industry, ensure you are filing T5018s appropriately.
U.S. CITIZENS: Risks of Tax Non-Compliance
Commencing January 1, 2016, the U.S. State Department was able to deny or revoke passports to U.S. citizens having a “seriously delinquent tax debt” or no Social Security Number associated with their passport. A “seriously delinquent tax debt” is one where the taxpayer owed more than $51,000, after January 1, 2018 (indexed going forward), in tax, interest and penalties.
An Alert on the IRS website recently noted that commencing January 2018 the IRS will begin certifying tax debts to the State Department. After receiving certification from the IRS, the State Department will not generally issue a passport.
In addition to passport denial and revocation, several states impose non-monetary non-criminal sanctions for certain taxpayers who are sufficiently delinquent on their taxes. For example, New York, California, Louisiana and Massachusetts may revoke driving privileges.
Action Item: If you have an outstanding U.S. tax liability, or are concerned you may not be compliant with your U.S. tax obligations, contact us to discuss options.
CRA MOBILE PHONE APPS: Tools for Individuals and Businesses
CRA provides a number of mobile phone apps that taxpayers (individuals, corporations, etc.) can use to assist with their tax obligations.
CRA BizApp – An app for small businesses owners to view and pay outstanding balances, view account transactions, view expected GST/HST returns, and view the status of filed GST/HST and corporate income tax returns.
CRA Business Tax Reminders – An app for businesses which sends pop-up notifications and/or calendar reminders for individual and business due dates for installments (individual, corporate and GST/HST), returns, and remittances (payroll and GST/HST).
MyBenefits CRA – An app for individuals which provides a quick view of an individual’s benefit and credit payment details and eligibility information.
MyCRA – An app for individuals which provides access to key tax information such as notice of assessments, tax return status, benefits and credits, and RRSP and TFSA contribution room. It also allows individuals to request a proof of income, manage online mail, update contact information, and update direct deposit information.
Action Item: Consider using one of these apps to assist with your tax filing obligations.
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. As it is impossible to include all situations, circumstances and exceptions in a newsletter such as this, a further review should be done by a qualified professional.
No individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents.
For any questions… give us a call.