Rental Income, Yeah or Nay?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

For sale sign, vectorMany people today are getting a mortgage helper, a rental suite in their home or a mother-in-law suite. Or are deciding to buy a rental property or properties to make some extra income. It can be a big decision and requires some thought about the tax implications, but also time, management and other implications. Do you have what it takes to be a landlord? Do you have the funds to finance the property if there are no renters? Is it an easily sellable property if you get into trouble? We’ll mostly talk about the tax implications.

Tax Implications

As with anything we do today, what are the tax implications is one thing we need to think about. If you rent out a part of your home, and earn income from doing so, then you may have to include those funds as income on your tax return. However, if you rent to an immediate relative, such as a parent or sibling, then you won’t have to include this in income, as you’re not dealing with them at arm’s length (used to describe a transaction between unrelated parties; each party acts in his or her own self-interest). You also won’t have to include in income, monies received from ‘homestay’ exchange students, as you’re being reimbursed for costs and not really renting.

You are allowed to deduct from rental income expenses used to earn that income, within reason. The amount you can deduct will depend on whether the rental property is part of your principal residence or a separate property. If it’s a separate property and you do not use it personally, then you can deduct 100% of the costs associated with renting it out. If it’s your principal residence, then you can deduct a percentage based on the square footage of the rental and the total square footage of your residence.

Some of the expenses you can deduct include:

  • Hydro
  • Gas
  • City Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Property Taxes
  • Mortgage/Loan Interest
  • Maintenance & repairs (includes landscaping)
  • Management & administrative fees (contracted out property manager)

One thing I don’t recommend is taking the capital cost allowance (depreciation) deduction. Yes, you get to deduct an expense from your rental income; however, this also reduces the book value of your property. When you go to sell your property you will incur a capital gain based on the value of the property when you bought, plus any additions you added along the way, and the value at the time of sale. If you’ve been deducting CCA then the book value is much less and now your gain is that much more. If you’re renting out part of your principal residence, then CCA only affects the portion you’re renting out not the whole home. In the end, this deduction is not worth it.

Rental income can be a great way to make extra income, help pay for your existing home, or maybe even become a ‘Donald Trump’ type (perhaps with less attitude). You just have to realize that it’s as much a business as opening up a restaurant, etc. You need to think about what you’re doing, and whether or not you can really handle being a Landlord and deal with the tax implications.

What Is Considered Barter?

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Payment for Doctor's ServicesThe subject of barter came up at a networking meeting I was attending and I thought it would be an interesting subject for Tidbits. Barter is where you exchange your product or services for someone else’s. For example, you sell widgets and happen to need a website, and fortunately, there is a website person that needs your widgets. In this case you trade your widgets for a new website.

Of course, Canada Revenue Agency has their take on barter too:

In its simplest form, bartering consists of trading by exchanging one commodity for another. Recently, however, the practice of bartering for goods and services has evolved into a sophisticated computer-controlled system of commerce proliferated by franchised, member-only barter clubs, where credit units possessing a notional monetary unit value have become a medium of exchange.

A barter transaction is effected when any two persons agree to a reciprocal exchange of goods or services and carry out that exchange usually without using money. In a barter transaction between persons who are dealing with each other at arm’s length, it is a fundamental principle that each of those persons considers that the value of whatever is received is at least equal to the value of whatever is given up in exchange therefor.

Your best scenario is to trade invoices: you invoice the website developer for your widgets, and they invoice you for the website. If the amounts are not quite the same, that’s okay, either of you just pays the difference.

CRA considers barter transactions to fall within the scope of the Income Tax Act. Therefore, barter transactions result in income or expense for your business. This applies if you happen to barter capital equipment you’re not using for another piece of equipment too.

The barter transaction could also result in a personal draw, if you buy something that is not for the business. For example, you sell your widgets for the use of a cabin for a vacation. In this case, the cabin vacation is personal, and, therefore you cannot claim it as an expense. However, you will have to claim the sale of the widgets as income.

I bet you’re now wondering about sales taxes, do I charge GST/HST or PST? Yes, you must treat a barter transaction as a regular transaction and charge the appropriate sales taxes. For example, you sell your widgets to the website developer and you agree on a $500 exchange, we’ll say this takes place in British Columbia. You must charge the website developer the GST/HST (5%) & PST (7%), which is $60.00 for a total of $560.00. The website developer would charge you just the GST/HST (5%) $25 equals $525.00.

Wait, there’s a difference here of $35.00 as you must charge higher taxes than the website developer. You could have to have the website developer pay the $35.00. Or, the website developer could just charge you $560.00 and break out the GST/HST (5%) and his invoice would be $533.33 plus $26.67 GST/HST. This could happen even if you’re trading service for service, as some services must charge PST (here in BC).

There could be the situation where you are bartering with someone in another province. You would charge them sales taxes based on location and they would do the same to you. For example, if you are in Ontario and the other business is in British Columbia, then you would charge them GST/HST (5%) & PST (7%) and the BC business would charge GST/HST of 13%. [Note: you could just charge GST/HST if you’re not registered for the PST in BC and you don’t sell to BC very often and the BC business would self-assess the PST].

From the example above, you’re in Ontario and the website developer is in British Columbia. You would charge $500 plus GST/HST & PST = $560.00 and the website developer would charge $565.00, a difference of $5.00. The website developer could just write off this difference or one of you could adjust the invoice to match the other. If you’re not registered for the BC PST, then you’d just charge $525 and we’re stuck with a difference of $40.00. In this case, it’s best to adjust your invoice up to the $565 of the website developer.

Barter can be a great way to help your business along in tough times, or when you’re first starting out. However, as with anything, too much of a good thing can hurt you. If you take too much barter, you may find your cash flow suffers greatly, and in some cases it’s caused a business to go under. I recommend you take no more than 10% per year for barter transactions.

How Do I File My Tax Return?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Tax return papers lying next to folder and calculatorThere are a couple of ways you can file a tax return today. You can still paper file, though that is going to disappear within the next 5 years, I believe. You can electronically file using Netfile® for individuals. And, you can hire a tax preparer, such as Number Crunchers®, to prepare and Efile® your return. Note that tax preparers are now required by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to electronically file all returns, unless stated otherwise by CRA.

Note that personal tax returns are due by April 30th of each year for the prior year’s filing. Self-employed, or proprietorship/partnership, returns are due by June 15th; however, any taxes owing are due by April 30th. I believe making installments is the smarter way to handle you taxes each year. Yes, the government gets your money early, however, you won’t have a whopping balance on April 30th that you may not be able to pay.

Be Prepared!

That’s not just a Scout slogan, but what you have to be before you file your taxes.

Gather up all your slips T4s, T5s, etc., a copy of last years return, donations, medical receipts, etc. You can register for My Account which gives you online access to your notices of assessment, allows you to make any adjustments to an already filed return, and more. If you need to change your address or direct deposit information (or want to set it up) makes sure you have all that information handy including: old address, new address, bank information, etc. Also, look at the various tax credits and find out if you qualify, and if you do then have all necessary information for those available. For a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to prepare your taxes ask for a copy of our Tax Info Needed sheet.

Paper Filing

You can still paper file (2013) and I believe it will be phased out over the next five years. You can get a copy currently at any Canada Post outlet or go online to CRA’s website and make sure you pick the return for your province. You must fill out the return as required and attached an original copy of all slips (T4s, T5s, etc.), donation receipts, medical receipts, arts credit and fitness credit, public transit receipts (monthly fare card as well as proof of payment), and any other slips/receipts for which you are claiming a deduction or income.

You must either mail or drop off your tax return to your local tax services office. CRA does not accept returns by email.

Netfile®

The Netfile® transmission service allows an individual to file your personal tax return directly to CRA, usually via a tax preparation software. You must use a CRA accredited software, and there are some free ones, check CRA’s website. With Netfile® you do not have to send your slips and receipts with the return. CRA will look at your return initially and send you a notice of assessment with your balance owing or refund. Since CRA does not get your slips/receipts with the return, they do ‘reviews’ either during the tax season or after the season (usually September onwards). Generally, CRA just wants proof of any deduction you’re claiming or may want to validate your income.

Netfile® is only for filing the current year tax return (2012 at the time of writing this). You cannot change your address, name or direct deposit information through Netfile®, do that before you file (see Be Prepared!).

The advantages to filing electronically are: faster refunds, it’s generally fast and easy (if you have a simply return), you can file for free (again, if you have a simply return), your information is secure and safe as CRA uses security levels equal to your bank, and filing electronically does not increase your chance of an audit.

Hire a Tax Preparer

The third option is to hire a tax preparer, and one that we recommend for those with a more complicated return, or you just don’t have the time to figure out the software or the paper return and file yourself.

Your tax preparer will have the software to be able to Efile® your return, and has the knowledge to get the job done right. Your tax preparer won’t need your Netfile® access code either as they would have their own account access for filing.

I have found many times deductions for clients they had no idea they were entitled, sometimes saving them thousands of dollars on their taxes. For what it costs to have someone prepare and Efile® your return, can be saved just in the hassle of filing and possible deductions you may have missed by filing it yourself.

Be prepared (see paragraph above) applies even more so with a tax preparer. Please ensure you have all your slips and receipts ready as anything you forget delays your return getting processed. Ask us for a copy of our Tax Info Needed sheet, which covers everything we’ll need to do your taxes.

For proprietorships/partnerships, I believe, it’s more imperative to get a professional tax preparer to prepare your tax return. A professional tax preparer will know what you can and cannot write off for tax purposes, or what deductions are only partially a write off. The three main things CRA looks at with proprietorships are automobile expenses, meals, and home-office expenses. So, you want your tax return to be as accurate as possible.

Filing your tax return is important and you want it to be accurate. Electronic filing is the best way to file your return. I find many people don’t file because they are going to owe taxes. That is a big mistake and can hurt you worse than filing and owing. As long as you file on time, you won’t be penalized, and you will only be charged interest on the balance owing. That is why it is better to make installment payments so you won’t have to worry about a balance owing at tax time.

If I give a gift to an employee, is that taxable?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Shopping cart with giftsYour employees are doing a great job, and you want to reward them with some kind of gift. However, you wonder if anything you give them will have to be considered income, and you are probably right. It’s pretty sad really that the government has to get its dirty paws on everything we earn.

A gift has to be for a special occasion, such as a religious holiday, birthday, anniversary (marriage or day started as an employee, wedding or birth of a child.  You may also give awards (employment-related accomplishments), such as for outstanding service, employees’ suggestions, or meeting or exceeding safety standards. Don’t confuse this with a reward, such as performing well in the job or exceeding production standards; these are performance related reasons. You can give an employee a gift, award or reward, and you can give it to them in either cash or non-cash, however, it’s still a taxable benefit.

This also means that as it’s a taxable benefit, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) may also apply to the gift, award or reward. If it’s a taxable benefit, it is also pensionable, so CPP applies. For EI, if the taxable benefit is paid in cash, then it’s insurable and EI applies. If the benefit is non-cash, it is not insurable, and EI does not apply. Remember, tax applies all taxable benefits.

You may be thinking, what about gift cards? Sorry, gift cards are considered an equivalent to cash, and, as such, are a taxable benefit to the employee. This also applies to items that are not cash, but cash be converted into cash, such as securities or precious metals.

There is hope though. You can give non-cash gifts and awards with a combined total of $500 annually. The fair market value of the goods must not exceed $500, and if they do, then the difference is considered a taxable benefit. For example, you bought an employee a couple of gifts over the year and the total was $750. In this case, the difference of $250 ($750 – $500) would be added to their income and taxed accordingly.  You can also give gifts or awards for long-term service every five years, so at the 5, 10, 15 etc. years of service marks, and up to $500.

Items of small or trivial value will not be considered a taxable benefit. These items are not included when calculating the total value of gifts and awards given in the year for the purpose of the exemption. Examples of items for small or trivial value include: coffee or tea; T-shirts with employer’s logos; mugs; plaques or trophies.

You may be thinking, well why don’t I just throw them a party. That won’t be taxable, right? Well, maybe. If the social function costs less than $100 per person, then it won’t be taxable. However, if you cover the cost of transportation home (taxi fare or other transportation) or accommodation this must be included in the $100 per person. If the total exceeds $100 per person, then the entire amount is a taxable benefit. For example, you throw a huge party for staff and the cost comes to $125 per person, then you must add to each employee $125.

If you want to do something for your employees on birthdays or anniversaries, then start a social committee. The social committee would be set up by, contributed to, and controlled by the employees. They could put so much per week into a fund that would then go to pay for cake, gifts, etc. for the birthday person. The employer should not contribute any funds to this social committee, as then it becomes a taxable benefit for the portion that the employer contributes. Now, you, as the employer, could have some say in when, where, etc. the party takes place, you just can’t contribute any monies towards it.

Sadly, in this day and age of taxing us to death, you need to check that what you’re giving your employees won’t become taxable to them. It’s always advisable to check with your bookkeeper, accountant, or even Canada Revenue Agency, before you give anything to an employee.

Can I Get Penalties/Interest Waived?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

rote karteCanada Revenue Agency (CRA) may either ‘waive’ or ‘cancel’ a penalty and/or interest. ‘Waive’ refers to a penalty or interest amount that is not yet assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the CRA. ‘Cancel’ refers to a penalty or interest amount that is assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the (CRA). You may never be charged penalty/interest as it’s too small or maybe you’ve been really good in the past and this one slip-up is forgiven.

What circumstances warrant relief?

Extraordinary Circumstances

You may have you run into a situation that is completely beyond your control. There could be extraordinary circumstances that prevented, or may prevent, you from making a payment when due, filing your taxes on time, or filing a government remittance on time.

These extraordinary circumstances could be:

  • Natural or human-made disasters, such as a flood or fire;
  • Civil disturbances or disruptions in services, such as a postal strike;
  • Serious illness or accident; and
  • Serious emotional or mental distress, such as death in the immediate family (sorry your third cousin twice removed doesn’t count).

CRA Errors

There could also be circumstances where penalty/interest are waived because CRA made an error, and yes they do make mistakes, they’re human too [don’t laugh]. This could be because of processing delays and you’re not informed in a reasonable time that you have an amount owing. You followed a CRA guide, or website material, that led you to file a tax return or make a payment based on incorrect information. You called CRA and the representative gave you incorrect information (note that CRA representatives now give you an ID number, so write that down). Errors in processing also happen and information may have been entered incorrectly by CRA; I had a client have income go missing because CRA misfiled a T4A.

Financial Hardship

If you’re going through a financial hardship and can show your inability to pay amounts owing, CRA may waive or cancel any interest in whole or part so you can pay the amount owing. Financial hardship doesn’t apply to waiving or canceling a penalty, unless an extraordinary circumstance prevented compliance, or an exceptional situation existed. For example, when a business is experiencing extreme financial difficulty and enforcement of such penalties would jeopardize the continuity of its operations, the jobs of the employees, and the welfare of the community as a whole, consideration may be given to providing relief of the penalties.

CRA may consider waiving or cancelling interest in the following situations:

  • A collection has been suspended because of an inability to pay caused by the loss of employment and the taxpayer is experiencing financial hardship;
  • A taxpayer is unable to conclude a payment arrangement because the interest charges represent a significant portion of the payments; or
  • Payment of the accumulated interest would cause a prolonged inability to provide basic necessities (financial hardship) such as food, medical help, transportation, or shelter; consideration may be given to cancelling all or part of the total accumulated interest.

If you’ve found yourself in a pickle with CRA, don’t panic and don’t procrastinate in filing your tax returns, government remittances, etc. It is much better to file and owe than not file and owe. You may have a balance owing, however, if you file on time you won’t face a penalty just interest on the balance owing. Currently (Sep 2013), the prescribed rate of interest on balances owing to CRA is 5%.

What Is The Scientific Research And Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Quantum ComputerWe’re getting a little sciencey with this Tidbits post, but don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple (lord knows I need to do that). So what is Scientific Research And Experimental Development (SR&ED) [pronounced ‘shred’] Tax incentive program? It’s a federal government tax incentive program administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that encourages Canadian businesses of all sizes, and in all sectors to conduct research and development (R&D) in Canada. It is the largest single source of federal government support for industrial R&D. The SR&ED Program gives claimants cash refunds and / or tax credits for their expenditures on eligible R&D work done in Canada.

With SR&ED there are two benefits. The first lets you deduct SR&ED expenditures from income for tax purposes. Second, you get a SR&ED Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which you can use to reduce Part I tax payable (corporations). And, you could a refund if the ITC is greater than your taxes owing.

You can be a Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC), other corporations, proprietorship(s) or trusts. Partnerships are treated quite differently, as they are not considered a taxpayer, and, as such, cannot earn Investment Tax Credits (ITCs).

SR&ED Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Generally, a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) can earn a refundable ITC of 35%, 100% refundable on qualified SR&ED current expenditures and 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED capital expenditures, up to a maximum threshold of $3 million of qualified SR&ED expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada. A CCPC can also earn a 20% non-refundable ITC on any amount over that threshold. However, for a CCPC that meets the definition of qualifying corporation, the 20% ITC on any amount over that threshold is refundable, 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED current and capital expenditures.

For other corporations, the ITC is 20% of qualified SR&ED expenditures. The ITC can be applied to tax payable and is not refundable.

For individuals (proprietorships) and trusts, the ITC rate is 20% of qualified SR&ED expenditures, only 40% of which is refundable. After applying the ITCs against tax payable, individuals and trusts can get a refund for part of the ITCs.

What work qualifies for SR&ED tax incentives?

To qualify, the work must meet the definition of Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED). “Scientific research and experimental development” means systematic investigation or search that is carried out in a field of science or technology by means of experiment or analysis and that is:

a)     Basic research, namely, work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge without a specific practical application in view,

b)    Applied research, namely, work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge with a specific practical application in view, or

c)     Experimental development, namely, work undertaken for the purpose of achieving technological advancement for the purpose of creating new, or improving existing, materials, devices, products or processes, including incremental improvements thereto,

And, in applying this definition in respect of a taxpayer, includes

d)    Work undertaken by or on behalf of the taxpayer with respect to engineering, design, operations research, mathematical analysis, computer programming, data collection, testing or psychological research, where the work is commensurate with the needs, and directly in support, of work described in paragraph (a), (b), or (c) that is undertaken in Canada by or on behalf of the taxpayer,

But does not include work with respect to

e)     Market research or sales promotion,

f)      Quality control or routine testing of materials, devices, products or processes,

g)     Research in the social sciences or the humanities,

h)    Prospecting, exploring or drilling for, or producing, minerals, petroleum or natural gas,

i)      The commercial production of a new or improved material, device or product or the commercial use of a new or improved process,

j)      Style changes, or

k)    Routine data collection;

How do I calculate my SR&ED expenditures and investment tax credit?

If you have done work that qualifies for Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentives, you can claim the following expenditures:

  • SR&ED salary or wages
  • Expenditures for materials for SR&ED
  • Contract Expenditures for SR&ED Performed on Behalf of a Claimant (policy)
  • SR&ED Lease Expenditures (policy)
  • SR&ED overhead and other expenditures (traditional method only)
  • Third-party payments
  • SR&ED capital expenditures

To calculate your SR&ED expenditures, you have to choose between the traditional method and proxy method. The traditional method involves claiming all of the SR&ED overhead and other expenditures you incurred during the year. The proxy method involves calculating a substitute amount for overhead and other expenditures, called the prescribed proxy amount.

Your SR&ED expenditures are accumulated in a pool of deductible SR&ED expenditures. This pool is your current and capital expenditures carried out in Canada, which you can deduct when calculating the income from your business. Any payments you get whether government, non-government or contract, such as research and development tax credits from a province or territory, will reduce this pool of deductible SR&ED expenditures and the total qualified SR&ED expenditures.

Are you using equipment both for SR&ED and commercial purposes? If so, you can claim a partial ITC for this shared-use equipment. However, if you dispose of this equipment and used it for a SR&ED ITC then there could be a recapture of the ITC and you may have to repay back part of it.

SR&ED is a great way for those businesses doing research and development for a product, whether physical or intangible, that they want to bring to market. If you think your R&D could fall into SR&ED then you need to talk to a professional that specializes in SR&ED. It can be very complicated, and needs to be done by someone specializing in this area.

What Is The Disability Tax Credit (DTC)?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

DollarsThe disability amount is a non-refundable tax credit used to reduce income tax payable on your income tax and benefit return. This amount includes a supplement for persons under18 years of age at the end of the year. All or part of this amount may be transferred to your spouse or common-law partner, or another supporting person.

The disability amount is for those individuals who have a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. You do have to file a form, of course, it is government and they thrive on paperwork. You file a T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA); a qualified practitioner must fill out the medical portion of the form.

You are eligible for the DTC only if CRA approves the T2201 form. A qualified practitioner has to complete and certify that you have a severe and prolonged impairment and its effects. To find out if you may be eligible for the DTC, check out the self-assessment questionnaire which is on the T2201 form.

Do you receive Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, or other types of disability or insurance? If so, this does not necessarily mean you will qualify for the DTC. These other programs have other purposes and different criteria for qualifying, such as your inability to work. You may not be able to work, however, your daily living may not be severely affected.

The DTC starts from the day the physical or mental impairment began. You can apply at anytime and re-file any tax returns for years that the DTC would apply. For example, you apply for the DTC in 2013 for an impairment that began in 2010; CRA approves the DTC for 2010 and future years. You can now apply for an adjustment for tax years 2010, 2011 & 2012.

Some Definitions

Inordinate amount of time – is a clinical judgment made by a qualified practitioner who observes a recognizable difference in the time required for an activity to be performed by a patient. Usually, this equals three times the normal time required to complete the activity.

Life-sustaining therapy – You must meet both the following conditions: the therapy is required to support a vital function, even if it alleviates the symptoms; and, the therapy is needed at least 3 times per week, for an average of at least 14 hours per week.

Markedly restricted – You are markedly restricted if, all or substantially all of the time (at least 90% of the time), you are unable or it takes you an inordinate amount of time (defined above) to perform one or more of the basic activities of daily living, even with therapy (other than therapy to support a vital function) and the use of appropriate devices and medication.

Prolonged – An impairment is prolonged if it has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

Qualified practitioner – Qualified practitioners are medical doctors, optometrists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists. The table below lists which sections of the form each can certify.

Significantly restricted – means that although you do not quite meet the criteria for markedly restricted, your vision or ability to perform a basic activity of daily living is still substantially restricted all or substantially all of the time (at least 90% of the time).

Type of impairment each qualified practitioner can certify:

Qualified practitioner: Can certify: 
Medical doctor All impairments
Optometrist Vision
Audiologist Hearing
Occupational therapist Walking, feeding, dressing, and the cumulative effect for these activities
Physiotherapist Walking
Psychologist Mental functions necessary for everyday life
Speech-language pathologist Speaking

If you find yourself with any kind of a severe impairment, you need to look at the DTC. Currently (2013), the disability amount is $7697, which can be significant. Also, with the amount of children being diagnosed with autism, you can have your child file a T2201 and will more than likely qualify for the DTC, which can then be transferred to one of the parents. Look at other potential disability credits that you may qualify for tax purposes too.

Do I have A Business?

By Randall Orser | Small Business

bowlingYou may find you must register for the PST, but not the GST/HST due to your sales volume. Of course, You’ve been doing something on the side, such as mowing lawns or doing home repairs for people or you’ve got something you love to make and sell it at craft fairs or flea markets on the weekend. You really enjoy making the extra money and are having fun. You’re only cutting a few lawns in the neighbourhood or making wedding cakes a few times per month, so what’s the big deal. You’re thinking those flea market finds you find and then fix up and sell later are no big deal and really it’s all for fun.

Well, you may actually have a business, as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says a business is an activity that you intend to carry on for profit and there is evidence to support that intention. Now, if you have absolutely no expectation to ever make a profit and every year will be a loss, CRA could disallow this as a business.

A business includes: a profession, a calling, a trade, a manufacture, an undertaking of any kind, and an adventure or concern in the nature of trade. Your venture more than likely falls somewhere within these inclusions.

You have to look at what you’re doing, and if you expect to make money doing it, then you have a business and need to file your taxes accordingly. You need to keep track of your revenue and expenses for the year and report those on your personal income tax return. You may not have to register a business name, as you can just operate under your personal name.

You must know the date when the business can be considered to have started. Generally, CRA considers your business to have started when it begins some significant activity that is a regular part of the business or that is necessary to get the business going. CRA look at each case on the merit of its own facts.

For example, you decide to start a merchandising business and you buy enough goods for resale to start the business. At this point, CRA would consider the business to have started. You can usually deduct expenses you have incurred to earn the business income from that date. You could still deduct the expenses even if, despite all your efforts, the business ended.

You also need to look at whether or not you need to register for the GST/HST (your worldwide sales are over $30,000) or for your provincial sales tax (PST), here in British Columbia you don’t have to register if your sales are under $10,000the type of business may determine whether or not these small supplier exemptions even apply.

There’s also the situation where someone starts with one of those multi-level marketing (MLM) companies and basically buys product on auto-ship every month. The product that you use personally cannot be written off as an expense. I know, you’re going to say ‘but it’s for research’ well that may work for the first couple of months, but after that ‘no’. Also, if you’re not really trying to sell the product, then how can you justify the expense in the first place?

One thing that CRA has been looking at the last few years is someone working full time, and running a business too; however, that business only has losses and never makes money. In this case, don’t be too surprised to get a call from CRA wanting to ‘review’ your business.

You may be running a business and not even realize it. You may think it’s nothing, just a few bucks a month, but CRA may not see it that way. And, anyway, who’ll find out? CRA may, doing just a routine audit on your personal taxes. When in doubt seek professional help and talk to someone about your ‘hobby’.

How Do I Get Help Preparing/Filing My Tax Return, As I’m Low Income?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

BeratungIf you find yourself in the situation of having a low income, you can get help filing your income tax return. You can file online for free, get a paper copy of the tax return (though that option may be gone soon), or use the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). The CVITP is great for those that just don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves or don’t have access to the Internet.

File Online For Free

Every year Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) certifies software programs for preparing tax returns, some of those are available online and are free (though with limited restrictions and/or exclusions). Check out this link for the available software for your tax year; click ‘Online’ to see the online offerings. There is even an iPad app available for filing your return.

The free filing online services are usually restricted to personal returns (no business filings), some even to only a few slips and no medical or donations, and some based on your income level. Check out the privacy policy of the online services, as you don’t want any of your personal information getting out there. CRA does not accept any responsibility for programming errors that affect the calculation of your tax payable. Note that NETFILE® is not available after November 30th so you will have to print the return and file it, so make sure the online version can also print a return.

Check out which one will work for you. And, CRA does not test for spelling or grammatical errors or user friendliness.

Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP)

CRA has developed the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) to help eligible taxpayers who are not able to prepare their own income tax return. CRA does this by partnering with community organizations that host tax clinics, and arrange for volunteers to prepare tax returns for taxpayers with low income and simply tax situations. Over ½ million taxpayers are help through this program.

Of course, with all things government there are limits. As a guideline, CRA has these suggested maximum income levels:

  • · Single person                                up to $30,000
  • · Couple                                         up to $40,000
  • · One adult with one child                       $35,000

Community organizations have the flexibility to adjust or set eligibility criteria for tax filers based on the local economic environment, the population they serve, and their own capacity.

The people volunteering in this program do not always have tax knowledge so the CVITP does not prepare tax returns for the following situations:

  • · Returns for deceased persons;
  • · Individuals who file for bankruptcy;
  • · Self-employed individuals;
  • · Individuals who report capital gains or losses; or
  • · Individuals who report employment expenses, or business or rental income and expenses.

Who is best served by the CVITP?

  • · Low-income individuals and social assistance recipients;
  • · Newcomers to Canada;
  • · Seniors; and
  • · Students

Volunteer tax preparation clinics are generally offered between February and April each year at various locations across Canada. This link will take you to the page on CRA’s website where the clinics are available.

If you’re in a situation where you’re unable to prepare your own return, it’s good to know there are options on which you can rely.

I got an email from CRA, is it legit?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

spam-emailYou opened up your email today and there was an email from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). You look bewildered, as you haven’t had any other correspondence from them, not even a phone call. And, you know you didn’t subscribe to receive any emails from CRA either.

This email is bogus, especially if it’s requesting ANY personal information from you such as your social insurance number, birthdate, address, etc. First, CRA doesn’t use email to contact taxpayers like you when it relates to your tax filings, refunds, credits, etc. Second, CRA already has your personal information so why would they be asking for it. Never respond to such emails as the sender is on a phishing expedition to get your personal information and commit identity fraud.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

Whenever you get an email from CRA, look at it and think twice before you respond. If you can print the email to a PDF, send it to CRA, as they want to know what’s going around as far as these fraudulent email. You can also contact your local police department too. Here are some samples of emails that have been going around the past few years.

Some Samples of Fraudulent Emails

Our first example uses something many are familiar with and that’s the INTERAC e-Transfer. I’m sure some of you have had someone send you money via this means I know I have. However, you get an email from that person’s bank and you go do the INTERAC e-Transfer website, not CRA’s website. Also, CRA NEVER uses INTERAC e-Transfer, and would direct deposit the funds right into your account (as long as you signed up for direct deposit, otherwise, you get a cheque).

Sample 1

From: notify@payments.interac.ca
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 5:23 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: INTERAC e-Transfer from Canada Revenue Agency System

Dear customer,

Canada Revenue Agency has sent you an INTERAC e-Transfer.

(Previously INTERAC Email Money Transfer).

Amount: $120.00 (CAD)

Sender’s Message: A message was not provided

Expiry Date: 25 June 2012

Action Required:

To deposit your money, click here: (web link)

Trouble with the link? Type it into your web browser address bar.

Need help? (web link)
——————————————————————————-
What is an INTERAC e-Transfer? (Previously INTERAC Email Money Transfer). If you use online or mobile banking at a participating financial institution, you can send and receive money quickly and easily.

Email or text messages carry the notice while the financial institutions securely transfer the money using existing payment networks. If your financial institution does not yet offer INTERAC e-Transfer, you can still deposit transfers to any bank account in Canada.

Click (web link) for details.
——————————————————————————
Pour voir les d?tails du virement en fran?ais, cliquez sur le lien ci-dessous: (web link)

 

Here’s a good one! Really, do you think CRA is going to send you an email if they think you’re committing tax evasion? More than likely you’ll get a knock at the door from a process server with a subpoena to turn up at tax court.

Sample 2

Dear business affiliate,

A criminal complaint has been filled against you and the company you are affiliated with. 
Your Company is being accused of trying to commit tax evasion schemes.

The full text of the complaint file (PDF format) can be downloaded from the CRA website, by visiting the following link: 
(web link)

For more information, please check our business information section, 2nd paragraph, and “Authorizing a representative”: 
(web link)

An official response from you is required, in order to take further action. 
Please review the charges brought forward in the complaint file, and contact us as soon as possible by:

Telephone: 800-267-6999
Email: complaints@cra-arc.gc.ca

Thank you,

Canada Revenue Service

 

Sample 3

You gotta love this one! Not only do they take the logo off the website, they actually use official looking numbers in the email address. CRA does have identification numbers for staff but they vary from department and have letters in them. The officiality (not sure if that’s a word) of the writing is pretty funny too. Really, ‘fiscal activity’, even CRA doesn’t sound that official. If you are getting a refund and it’s late, you will get a letter from CRA requesting further information, not this stupid looking email.

From: Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) <memberID-63692@cra-arc.gc.ca>
Date: 24 November, 2011 6:59:00 AM EST
Subject: [Bulk] Tax Refund (776752) $320.50
Reply-To: memberID-85140@cra-arc.gc.ca

cralogo

Dear Canada Revenue Agency customer,

After the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $320.50.

Please submit the tax refund form on Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website and allow us 3-5 business days to process the information.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.

For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please Click Here.

Thank you,

Canada Revenue Agency Online Security Department.