Seven Tips to Save on Your Taxes for Authors

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes

Way before tax times approaches, you should be gathering up your business-related expenses. What qualifies as a business-related expense? Here’s some great ones for authors.

Home is where the writing is

Where do you write? Most authors write at home, and have a space reserved for that purpose. Whether you rent or own, if you use a part of your home exclusively and regularly for the business of writing then you may be able to write off expenses that relate to the space.

Round up your gas, hydroelectricity, house insurance, maintenance (house cleaning, landscaping, etc.), mortgage interest, property taxes and city utilities, strata fees, rent. It’s best to review these with your tax advisor, and that you get the right percentage of use. Remember you need to measure the square footage of the room, and determine your home’s total square footage.

Pens and Paper Aplenty

All those office store receipts add up after a while, and you may as well use them. Your office equipment and materials that include desks, cabinets, chairs, lighting, computer and software, printers, ink, paper, pens, and other supplies.

Ding-a-ling May Be Deductible

Your cell phone or landline may be considered a business expense. You should show that the phone is used normally for business. Canada Revenue Agency seems to allow 100% of cell phone bills to be written off (at least your portion, if it’s a family plan). If your business conducts interviews, you can keep a log of the date, length, ad purpose of such calls. Of course, in today’s smartphone era, you probably use the cell to email clients, take notes, draft story outlines, or do research. Your tax advisor can help you figure out the correct deduction amounts for your phone usage, devices, service and repair charges.

Surfing Could Mean Savings

Every household pretty much has the internet these days, and you’re more than likely using it for your business. You’re probably using it for email, website, video conferencing clients, existing and new ones, doing research and fact-checking. These days it’s social media and promoting your business. Many people get their inspiration from the internet. Ideally, if you want to write off your internet service, it should be in the businesses name; you’ll pay more for it, however, CRA likes to see this.

Subscribe Your Way to Savings

Do you belong to professional organizations? How about magazines and other publications, even websites you subscribe to on a monthly basis? Associations would include ones to power up your writing, or learn more on a certain subject you’re writing about, online access to the AP Stylebook, newspapers, and more.

Fly the Friendly Skies to a Tax Write-off

Travel writers aren’t the only ones who can claim travel as a deduction. Any travel that you do may qualify for a deduction, if it gets you somewhere that’s business related. That professional conference, or event you covered, or client you met would all qualify for the travel deduction; remember parking and tolls. As for a car, if it’s a rental car then you just write off that as a travel expense. If it’s your personal car, then you must keep your mileage and all your receipts; unless you’re a corporation, then you can pay yourself per kilometer.

Your Content Creation and Business Expenses Could be Related

The content you create for clients, could lead to deductions for your business. Are you a movie or theatre reviewer? The cost of those tickets would be a write-off. A graphic designer that creates marketing materials for a beauty brand, anything purchased to better understand the user experience could qualify too. Look at the content you created over the past year, and the products or services you purchased to create that content. Your professional tax advisor should be able to give you great advice on what you can and cannot write-off.

If you want to reduce your taxable income, then look at your home office, cell phone, internet plan, dues and subscriptions, travel and the content you create. For a little bit of record keeping, and advice from a tax advisor, you can keep more money, and give less to the government.

Donations and gifts – CRA

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

If you or your spouse or common-law partner made a gift of money or other property to certain institutions, you may be able to claim a federal and provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credit when you file your return. Generally, you can claim all or part of this amount, up to the limit of 75% of your net income.

What is the eligible amount of my gift?

In most cases, the eligible amount of your gift is the amount shown on your charitable donation receipt.

In most cases, the eligible amount of your gift is the amount shown on your charitable donation receipt.

However, in more technical terms, the eligible amount of the gift is the amount by which the fair market value of the gifted property exceeds the amount of an advantage, if any, received or receivable for the gift.

The advantage is generally the total value of any property, service, compensation, use or any other benefit that you are entitled to as partial consideration for, or in gratitude for, the gift. The advantage may be contingent or receivable in the future, either to you or a person or partnership not dealing at arm's length with you.

Example

You donate $1,000 to the Anytown Ballet Company, which is a registered charity. In gratitude, the company provides you with three tickets to a show that are valued at $150. You are therefore considered to have received an advantage of $150. The eligible amount of the gift is $850 ($1,000 − $150).

The advantage also includes any limited-recourse debt in respect of the gift at the time it was made. For example, there may be a limited recourse debt if the property was acquired as part of a gifting arrangement that is a tax shelter. In this case, the eligible amount of the gift will be reported in box 13 of Form T5003, Statement of Tax Shelter Information. For more information on tax shelters and gifting arrangements, see Guide T4068, Guide for the Partnership Information Return (T5013 Forms).

There are situations in which the eligible amount may be deemed to be nil. For more information, see the sections called "Deemed fair market value" and "Official donation receipts" in Pamphlet P113, Gifts and Income Tax.

Profit from Your Competitor’s Decline 

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Do you feel that your competitors are there to just steal your clients? Change your thinking and use your competitors to your advantage. Blow away your competition in your market by using the following three ways to profit from your competitor’s decline.

What do your potential customers want?

You probably have a good grasp of what your existing customers want, however, it’s important to learn what your future customers want. How do you go about that? Check out the competition’s social media sites, and see what their customers are commenting, and what they favour about the products or services of that competitor. Then implement some of these ideas in your business, at least those that fit into your brand. Of course, don’t contact them directly on the competitor’s sites, however, do invite them to subscribe to your business page or other site, maybe your newsletter.

Can you pick up where the competitor left off?

Look at the negative comments on the competitor’s sites as well. What issues are coming up in those comments? Is there an area of the competitor’s business that people are having a tough time with? Then make sure your business isn’t having the same issues. This gives you a double whammy, being able to fix the competitor’s customers issues, and having your own customers see an improvement even if they didn’t realize it was there. That said, be careful not to scare your current customers away with any change. If you think a change may be an issue with existing customers, use a poll, survey, or just ask them outright to find out how they would feel about said change. If one of those won’t work, then do some exploration of other businesses have done this change with any level of success. Your existing customers are important, and it’s far better to keep them happy than changing something just to get new customers.

What’s Your Angle?

Stand out from your competition by focusing on those things that you do best. Always look at your competitors and what they do best, then figure out a better or different angle to exceed them. For customers looking for something a little different, this would be a good draw for them. In order to stand out from the competition, do what you do best, however, have something the competition doesn’t. You’ll not only gain new customers, but they have grounds to stay loyal.

Business is all about being known for something. The best way to figure out that ‘known’ is to check out the competition. Grow your business and keep your customers happy by using your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Start learning to profit from your competitors decline, and you’ll feel less like your competitors are in your way.

Disasters and Disaster Relief 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

According to Public Safety Canada, a disaster is a hazard that overwhelms a community’s ability to cope and may cause serious harm to people’s safety, health, welfare, property, or the environment. A disaster can be the result of a naturally occurring phenomenon within the geophysical or biological environment or human action, whether malicious or unintentional, including technological failures, accidents, and terrorist acts.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) understands that disasters can cause great difficulties for taxpayers whose primary concerns during these times are their families, homes, businesses, and communities.

Those giving to charities in times of disasters should remember to give wisely.

Financial assistance payments from your employer or to your employee

Income tax

If an employer makes a financial assistance payment to an employee because of a disaster, is it taxable?

A financial assistance payment that an employer makes to an employee is not taxable if the person received the payment in his or her capacity as an individual and not as an employee. The CRA considers a person to have received a payment in his or her capacity as an individual when all the following conditions are met:

  • The individual was affected by a disaster (for the criteria, go to www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cdd).
  • The payment is philanthropic, to compensate the individual for personal losses or damage he or she suffered during a disaster.
  • The payment is made within a reasonable time after a disaster.
  • The payment is voluntary, reasonable, and bona fide.
  • The payment is made to an individual dealing with the company at arm’s length (for example, the individual does not control the company or is not related to a person who controls the company). See Income Tax Folio S1-F5-C1: Related persons and dealing at arm's length, for more information.
  • The payment is not made to a shareholder, a connected person (for example, a person related to a shareholder or a shareholder of a related corporation), or a person of influence (for example, an executive with power to control company decisions).
  • The payment is not based on employment factors such as performance, position, or years of service.
  • The payment is not made in exchange for past or future employment services or to compensate for loss of income.
  • The payment is not the regular salary paid to an individual who is unable to report to work because of a disaster.
  • The employer has not taken a business expense deduction for the payment.

If an employer makes a financial assistance payment to an employee who is a shareholder or an executive, is it taxable?

When a financial assistance payment is received by a shareholder, a connected person, or a person of influence, the facts must be examined to determine whether the payment was received in his or her capacity as an individual (that is, not as an employee or a shareholder). If so, it is not taxable. If the employee received the payment on the same basis as other employees, the payment is likely to be considered to have been received in his or her capacity as an individual, assuming all the other conditions listed above are met.

If an employer makes a financial assistance payment to an employee, is the payment tax-deductible?

If the financial assistance payment is made to an individual in his or her capacity as an employee, the payment is taxable and the employer can deduct it as a business expense if it is reasonable and was incurred to earn business income. The taxable portion of the payment should be reflected in the employee’s T4 information slip in Boxes 14 and 40.

If the financial assistance payment is made to an employee in his or her capacity as an individual (see above), the payment is not taxable and the employer cannot deduct it as a business expense.

The employer is not entitled to claim a charitable donation tax credit or a deduction for the payment because it is not a gift made to a registered charity or other qualified donee.

Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST)

GST/HST will not apply to financial assistance payments that an employer makes to an employee, including an employee who is a shareholder, when the conditions, as outlined above for income tax purposes, are met and the payments are not taxable for income tax purposes. If the employer’s financial assistance payment to an employee is taxable for income tax purposes, the GST/HST does not apply to the payment since the GST/HST does not apply to salaries, wages, commissions, and other remuneration. In either case, the employer cannot claim an input tax credit for the payment.

Financial assistance payments from your government

Income tax

Is government assistance paid to an individual taxable?

Generally, a disaster relief payment that an individual receives from a government, municipality, or public authority for personal losses and expenses is not taxable and is not included in the recipient’s income for income tax purposes. This includes payments for temporary housing, clothing, and meals. As well, government compensation for loss of or damage to a personal residence does not ordinarily result in any income tax consequences.

Is government assistance paid to a business taxable?

Generally, government assistance that a business receives to help offset the cost of expenditures incurred because of a disaster can either directly reduce the amount of business expenses incurred or be included in income and the business expenses deducted when incurred in the normal manner. In either case, the business will effectively have no net income related to the assistance.

Government assistance received to help replace destroyed or damaged property will generally reduce the capital cost of that property. To the extent that the government assistance is compensation for property that has been lost or destroyed, the amount of the assistance is treated similarly to insurance proceeds so that the compensation is proceeds of disposition.

Generally, the Income Tax Act allows a business to elect to postpone recognizing a capital gain or a recaptured capital cost allowance when a former property is disposed of involuntarily and a replacement property is acquired. A replacement property must be acquired within a specified time limit (generally within 24 months of the end of the tax year in which the proceeds were receivable). A property is a replacement property for a former property only if specific conditions are met.

To ease the financial burden that might arise when a business elects to postpone recognizing a capital gain or a recaptured capital cost allowance, the CRA may accept security in lieu of payment of taxes owing until the final determination of taxes is made or the period for acquiring the replacement property has expired. For more information on posting security, see paragraph 3 of Interpretation Bulletin IT-259R4, Exchange of Property.

If the business is unable to pay or secure the tax debt arising from such a scenario, it is CRA policy to work with the business to establish a payment arrangement based on the business’s ability to pay.

The business should file its income tax return in the normal manner for the year that the proceeds are received and file its replacement property rules election within the specified time to amend the tax assessment for the year the proceeds were received and reduce the amount payable on the proceeds. In the meantime, to offer security or discuss a payment arrangement, the business can call the CRA at 1-888-863-8657.

Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST)

In general, the provision of financial assistance by a government (or other grantor) to an individual or a business to subsidize the individual or business for losses or expenses resulting from a disaster will not be considered a supply and, therefore, the GST/HST will not apply to it, if there is no direct link between the financial assistance and a supply by the individual or business to the grantor or a third party specified by the grantor. For more information, see Technical Information Bulletin B-067, Goods and Services Tax Treatment of Grants and Subsidies.

Compensation you receive from your employer or government is, generally, not considered income in most circumstances. Any time you receive compensation for a disaster, including insurance, it’s always wise to talk to an accountant or tax preparer to ensure your non-taxable position.

Taking Inventory of Your Stock

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Inventory control is an essential part of running a profitable business. If you don't know what inventory you have, you can't anticipate demand. You won't know if employee theft is happening and you'll have trouble getting the maximum depreciation deductions on your taxes. There are many, many reasons to take stock of your inventory on a regular basis.

When Should You Schedule Inventory Checks?

Different kinds of inventory checks should be scheduled at different times of the year. Before the holiday seasons, you should schedule an inventory check to see how much you should order for the upcoming rush. You should schedule a check before tax season, usually at the end of the month of your fiscal year.

In addition to "special case" inventory checks, you should also have checks scheduled regularly. This will help you spot buying trends, as well as catch employee theft early.

What Should You Check When Taking Stock?

Here are a few of the things to look at when you're taking stock of your inventory:

* Are there items that continually don't sell? If you notice items sitting on the shelf for a long time, it might be time to discontinue those items.

* Are there items that are selling very quickly? Not only should you restock these items, but you should also consider promoting them harder, as there's a lot of demand in the market.

* The raw number of items you have. At the most basic level, that's what an inventory check is about.

* The asset value of your inventory. This helps for accounting, as well as to know how much of your capital is tied up in inventory.

* The amount of raw materials. If you make products on site, this is important to know.

* Expiration date of your inventory. Try to use up inventory that's going to expire first.

* Any missing items. If you notice missing items, it might be time to consider anti-theft policies.

Managing Stock Levels

Once you have a clear idea of where your stock levels are, the next step is to develop good stock management policies. It could be useful to talk to your employees during this process, as they tend to have a lot of first-hand experience on what is and isn't selling.

There are three main goals to stock level management:

1) Stock more of what's selling so you don't sell out.

2) Stock less of what isn't selling.

3) Stock as little as possible to free up capital.

It helps to design these processes yourself, but eventually you want to be able to hand off all your stock management programs to managers and employees. When you do, make sure the different purposes of inventory checks are clearly explained.

Calculating the Home-based Business Tax Deduction

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes

If you run a home business, you’ll want to be sure you deduct all the relevant home business expenses on your income tax.

However, although there are income tax deductions that are specific to home businesses, not all home businesses will qualify for these tax deductions. The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) has stringent conditions that determine whether a home business owner can claim business-use-of-home expenses on line 9945 of the T1 tax form.

Who can claim the home business tax deduction?

You can only claim business-use-of-home expenses if your home is your principal place of business, or you use the work space in your home only to earn your business income and use it regularly to meet with clients, customers or patients. So you can’t claim business-use-of-home expenses if you are conducting business somewhere else as well, or because you sometimes work on business matters at home.

How to claim the home business tax deduction.

If you meet the CRA requirements, you’re ready to calculate your business-use-of-home expenses.

Because you’re doing business where you live, your expenses will be a percentage of your home expenses. It’s easiest to calculate if you have a specific room set aside for business purposes, such as a home office. Then it’s a simple matter to take the area of your work space and divide it by the total area of your house.

For instance, suppose you have a home office that is 10 by 10 feet in a house that’s 1800 square feet. Then your calculation of allowable portion of business-use-of-home expenses would be: 100 divided by 1800 = 5%.

The next step in calculating the home business tax deduction is to apply this percentage to your allowable household expenses. You can deduct a portion of all your house expenses that directly relate to operating your business, such as your utilities, telephone, and cleaning materials. If you own your home, you can claim a portion of your house insurance, property taxes, and mortgage interest (although you can’t claim the mortgage payments themselves.) If you rent your residence, you can claim a portion of the rent you pay.

In the example I’ve just given, let’s say that I own my own home, and all the expenses I’ve just listed total $6800 for the fiscal year. Then 5% (my allowable portion of business-use-of-home expenses) of $6800 (my total home expenses) is $377.78, which is my total business-use-of-home expenses claim on line 9945 of the T1 tax form.

If you operate a part-time business out of your home, you must adjust your business-use-of-home expenses accordingly. For instance, suppose you use part of your home to run a consulting business five days a week. To figure out your business-use-of-home expenses, you would calculate how many hours in the day you use the work space in your home for business purposes, divide that amount by 24 hours, and then multiply the result by the business portion of your total home expenses.

Using the same example used above, and operating the business from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. five days a week, (7 hours a day), 7/24 hours x 100/1800 square feet x $6800 home expenses = $99.17.

However, in the example, the business is only operated 5 days a week, so I would then reduce the claim accordingly: $99.17 x 5/7 = $70.84.

You can’t deduct an expense from an income you don’t have. In other words, you can’t use the business-use-of-home expenses to create a business loss, so your deduction can’t be more than your net income before you deduct these expenses. If it’s more, you can carry the amount of these expenses forward into the next year.

It may not seem like a lot, but when it comes to income tax, every deduction helps. If you run a home business and meet the CRA’s definition of business-use-of-home, you’ll want to be sure you claim the home business tax deduction on your income tax.

The following are the allowable Home Office Expenses:

Heat (gas)

Electricity (hydro)

Insurance

Maintenance

Mortgage Interest

Property Taxes

Strata Fees

Rent (if not own home)

Internet (if not in the businesses name)

Phone (if you use your home phone to answer business calls or as a fax)

Cable (some industries can get away with this, mostly those in the entertainment areas)

Grow Your Business with Startup Thinking 

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Many entrepreneurs, maybe you, get caught up on small stuff when starting their business. You’ll focus on such things as company name, stationary, incorporation, etc. You end up being mired in the small details, which end up clouding your judgment and stop you from concentrating on the business’s big picture. The running of the business takes control, and you slide right past the bigger possibilities. You need to start thinking like a startup founder, and watch your business grow beyond your wildest dreams. Following are five insights you should endorse to start thinking like a startup founder.

Have an Exit Strategy in Mind

With an exit strategy in mind, this mentality causes you, and your team, to concentrate on the end goal, and how your actions today connect you to your end goal. You need to evaluate every action you take, from marketing efforts to agreements to client interactions, as to whether it moves you towards your goal and a profitable payoff. When building your business, use this exit strategy technique, and embrace a big picture outlook to ensure your business growth push is producing a profitable result.

Focus on Your Team Members’ Core Abilities

To build dynamic teams, you need to figure out your team members’ core abilities, and don’t duplicate skill sets amongst your employees. Following this philosophy of not duplicating skill sets within your staff will allow you to hire new employees based on the skill sets your business is currently lacking. The thought is that with the various skill sets covered there is better cohesion of your team, and, hopefully, less competiveness as they complement rather than compete.

Keep Management Levels to a Minimum

Open the door for high growth by not creating countless levels of management, and instead build on teamwork, and a meaningful appetite to prosper throughout your organization. You’ll keep mid-level management at bay by having this mindset, and not hire them at all. You’re better positioned for faster decisions and rapid growth; keep this top of mind the next time you think about hiring someone.

‘Fail Fast’ Has Become an Essential Component of Startup Culture

Budding, active businesses can’t afford to waste time on products or services doomed for the scrap heap. When looking at launching new products or services, ensure you have all the data to back up your decisions before any launch. You need to be ready to cut your losses early if the signs are pointing to a dying undertaking.

Startups Are Cash-Strapped, So They Bootstrap

You need to look at the return on investment (ROI) on any item you’re about to spend money on, and whether it contributes to the company’s growth. Incorporate the cash-strap/bootstrap attitude into every facet of your business. You need to consider the ROI on anything you’re thinking of buying, and does it financially benefit your business.

Integrating startup thinking into your whole business, you’ll be amazed at just how effortless your business becomes. From product development to human resources, every area of your business will be certain of success. Is this the year you incorporate startup thinking into your business’ growth initiatives?

Refundable vs Non-refundable Tax Credits 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Tax credits can greatly decrease the amount of taxes you must pay. If you don’t fully understand them, you could be missing out on large cash opportunities. One aspect that often goes unexplained is the difference between refundable and non-refundable tax credits. What is the difference between the two, and how do they affect the amount of tax you owe to the government?

A tax credit is very different from a tax deduction. A deduction is a reduction in the gross income. For example, if you have a gross income of $50,000 for the year, total itemized deductions of $10,000 would make the adjusted gross income $40,000. You have the option to use the standard deduction or itemize your deductions if your total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction. By increasing the value of your deductions, you lower your taxable income, therefore lowering the amount of total tax you owe.

Tax credits have a larger advantage. After you have calculated your total taxable income and determined how much you owe in taxes, a tax credit will be deducted from that total amount. For example, if you owe the government $3,000 and you qualify for a $1,000 tax credit, you now only owe $2,000. It is a 100% reduction in taxes owed whereas deductions reduce the taxes owed by a much smaller percentage. Basically, you want to get as many deductions and credits as possible, but credits have a larger impact.

Tax credits have nothing to do with how much money was withheld from your check each month for taxes. Don’t even think about how much money is withheld until the very end. The withheld amount also has nothing to do with whether a tax credit is refundable or not. These are two different aspects; do not confuse them.

Many people don’t know that tax credits can be either refundable or non-refundable. If they aren’t done in the right order, you could be losing money owed to you. Fortunately, the forms are set up so that you will automatically calculate them in the right order. However, understanding the difference between the two is beneficial.

First, calculate non-refundable tax credits. A non-refundable tax credit is a credit that cannot exceed your total tax owed. For example, if you owe $3,000 in taxes and your total non-refundable tax credits equal $4,000, your tax owed is $0. You cannot receive back an extra $1,000. There is no refund to the total tax you owe.

Non-refundable credits include basic personal exemption; education credits; child and dependent care credits, adoption credits, etc. Subtracting non-refundable credits first will minimize your total taxes owed.

Now you will have a new taxes-owed amount. Using the above example, you have $0 owed. Calculate your total refundable credits. These included the earned income tax credit, making work pay credit, first time home buyers credit, etc. Let’s say these come to a total of $2,000. These are refundable credits meaning you will have a result of -$2,000 tax. In other words, the government owes you $2,000.

Once you have calculated your taxes owed after subtracting all qualified credits, calculate your entire refund or taxes owed. If you get $2,000 from the government and $5,000 was withheld from your check, your total refund is $7,000. Notice that the amount withheld from your check is separate from the $2,000 refundable credit. You receive an extra $2,000 in addition to the money returned to you that was withheld for tax purposes throughout the year.

Calculating non-refundable credits before refundable credits maximizes your total credit potential. Non-refundable credits are used first, whether they bring your taxes owed down to zero or just reduce them. Refundable credits are calculated last to ensure that all possible refunds are realized. The above example is exaggerated to make the discussion easier. This amount in tax credits is not typical. It depends on what you qualify for. However, make sure you check out each credit thoroughly to ensure you get your maximum return or minimize your taxes owed as much as possible.

Five Tips To Know If You Have What It Takes To Start A Home Based Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You may see, hear, and read a lot of people constantly raving about the numerous wonders of a home-based business but starting and managing one isn’t immediately a bed of roses. In some cases, having a home-based business is easier than having a business in traditional settings, but in some cases, it’s absolutely the other way around.

Tip #1 You Still Need the M’s for a Home-Based Business

The only difference is that there’s no need for you to pay for rent and possibly, you’ll have lower business costs because your business is based at home. But other than that, the process of starting up and the necessary factors of production are still the same.

Money - Its rarely possible, if at all, to start a home-based business without spending even a dollar for investment and pre-operating costs.

Material - If your home-based business is selling products and not services then you’ll still have to ensure that you’ve got the best materials to produce the best products in the market.

Manpower - for a home-based business, you can usually make use of family members ñ even your kids ñ to help and provide the necessary labor for the business.

Machinery - Usually, a home-based business selling services online can function with a computer and Internet access, but if you’re selling products, you’ll naturally need other additional equipment.

Tip #2 You Still Need to Register Your Home-Based Business

The fact that you have a business based or you’re working from home doesn’t exempt you from your obligation to pay taxes. You can, however, apply for tax deductions that you may be eligible for due to your home-based business.

To qualify for tax deductions, you need to prove that one part of your home is indeed used primarily and exclusively for operating your business. Secondly, if ever personal meetings with your clients, suppliers, and affiliates are required, you use that section of your home for such purposes.

Tip #3 Products, Services, or Both?

A home-based business may sell products, services, or both. The success of your home-based business depends on how marketable your products or services are. Consider the following factors:

Quality - How does the quality of your products or services fare compared to those manufactured or provided by your competitors?

Cost - How much are you selling them for? Since you’re operating a home-based business, you should take advantage of your situation and use it to lower the price of whatever you’re selling. Lowering your price is something you can afford to do because you have lower costs, and it will at the same time allow you to compete against bigger retailers on the same ground.

Tip #4 Online, Offline, or Both?

The success of your home-based business will also depend on how you should to advertise about your business. If, for instance, you’re selling home baked cookies, you’ll probably achieve greater profit by focusing mostly on selling to your neighbors and acquaintances in the area then advertising online on the sides. Setting up a home-based web designing business on the other hand would certainly benefit more from online advertising.

Tip #5 Are You Good at Waiting?

A home-based business will also take time to prove its profitability and stability. Thus, make sure that you’re willing to wait for your business to grow. There are any number of hurdles that your home-based business might face in the future but you need to be prepared to face all of them if you wish to succeed.

That Great Employee Benefit is Probably Taxable 

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Small Business

You’ve decided to reward your employees with a benefits plan, maybe a company car, gift cards, and such. Now, before you go and give your employee something, you need to find out if that benefit is considered income to the employee, and, therefore, taxable. Sadly, any kind of benefit you give an employee is considered a taxable benefit, and the employee must be taxed on it, some even are taxable for Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance. We’ll talk about what is a benefit and how is it taxable.

Your employee has received a benefit if you pay for or give something that is personal in nature: directly to your employee; or to a person who does not deal at arm’s length with the employee (such as the employee’s spouse, child, or sibling).

A benefit is a good or service you give, or arrange for a third party to give, to your employee such as free use of property that you own. A benefit includes an allowance or a reimbursement of an employee’s personal expense.

An allowance is a limited amount decided in advance that you pay to your employee on top of salary or wages, to help the employee pay for certain anticipated expenses without having him or her support the expenses. An allowance can be calculated based on distance or time or on some other basis such as motor vehicle allowance using the distance driven or a meal allowance using the type and number of meals per day.

A reimbursement is an amount you pay to your employee to repay actual expenses he or she incurred while carrying out the duties of employment. The employee must keep proper records to support the expenses and give them to the employer.

Determine if the benefit is taxable

Your first step is to determine whether the benefit you provide to your employee is taxable and should be included in his or her employment income when the benefit is received or enjoyed. Whether the benefit is taxable depends on its type and the reason an employee or officer receives it. To determine if the benefit is taxable, see Chapters 2 to 4 of Guide T4130, Employers’ Guide Taxable Benefits and Allowances.

The benefit may be paid in cash (such as a meal allowance or reimbursement of personal cellular phone charges), or provided in a manner other than cash, such as a parking space or a gift certificate. The way you pay or provide the benefit to your employee will affect the payroll deductions you should withhold.

Types of benefits and allowances

To find out if benefits and allowances are taxable and how they are declared on T4 or T4A slips, see the Benefits and allowances alphabetical index. There are just too many to go through in this blog post.

Calculate the value of the benefit

Once you determine that the benefit is taxable, you need to calculate the value of the specific benefit. The value of a benefit is generally its fair market value (FMV). This is the price that can be obtained in an open market between two individuals dealing at arm's length. The cost to you for the property, good, or service may be used if it reflects the FMV of the item or service. You must be able to support the value if you are asked.

Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) and provincial sales tax (PST)

When you calculate the value of the taxable benefit you provide to an employee, you may have to include:

  • the GST/HST payable by you; and
  • the PST that would have been payable if you were not exempt from paying the tax because of the type of employer you are or the nature of the use of the property or service.

Use the “Benefits chart,” here to find out if you should include GST/HST in the value of the benefit. Some benefits have further information about GST/HST in the topic specific section.

The amount of the GST/HST you include in the value of the taxable benefits is calculated on the gross amount of the benefits, before any other taxes and before you subtract any amounts the employee reimbursed you for those benefits.

You do not have to include the GST/HST for:

  • cash remuneration (such as salary, wages, and allowances); or
  • a taxable benefit that is an exempt supply or a zero‑rated supply as defined in the Excise Tax Act.

Policy for non-cash gifts and awards

You may give an employee an unlimited number of non-cash gifts and awards with a combined total value of $500 or less annually. If the fair market value (FMV) of the gifts and awards you give your employee is greater than $500, the amount over $500 must be included in the employee's income. For example, if you give gifts and awards with a total value of $650, there is a taxable benefit of $150 ($650-$500).

you can, once every five years, give your employee a non-cash long-service or anniversary award valued at $500 or less, tax free. The award must be for a minimum of five years' service, and it should be at least five years since you gave the employee the last long-service or anniversary award. Any amount over the $500 is a taxable benefit.

If it has not been at least five years since the employee's last long-service or anniversary award, then the award is a taxable benefit. For example, if the 15-year award was given at 17 years of service, and then the next award is given at 20 years of service, the 20-year award will be a taxable benefit, for five years will not have passed since the previous award.

The $500 exemption for long-service awards does not affect the $500 exemption for other gifts and awards in the year you give them. For example, you can give an employee a non-cash long-service award worth $500 in the same year you give him or her other non-cash gifts and awards worth $500. In this case, there is no taxable benefit for the employee. If the value of the long-service award is less than $500, you cannot add the shortfall to the annual $500 exemption for non-cash gifts and awards.

Items of small or trivial value do not have to be included when calculating the total value of gifts and awards given in the year for the exemption. Examples of items for small or trivial value include: coffee or tea; T-shirts with employer's logos; mugs; plaques or trophies.

Basically, anything you give an employee becomes a taxable benefit. Ensure you chat with your bookkeeping/accountant before deciding on any employee benefits, as more than likely, they are taxable.