All Posts by Randall Orser

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President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.

How Long does it Take to Get Your Tax Refund?

By Randall Orser | Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax

The time it takes to get your tax refund depends on how and when you filed your income tax return.  

According to the CRA when you file your tax return on or before your filing due date, they will issue you with a Notice of Assessment and any refund that they owe you as follows: 

  • Within two weeks of receiving your return if you file it electronically
  • Within eight weeks of receiving your paper return
  • Within sixteen weeks of receiving your non-resident paper filed return

Tax returns that are filed electronically are processed faster than paper returns, often within as few as eight business days. The CRA also says that if you use direct deposit into your bank account then you could get your refund faster.  However, it is realistic to expect your tax refund after the end of February because even if you filed in January the CRA does not begin processing income tax returns until mid-February.

How to Check the Status of your Tax Refund or Return 

There are several ways to check on your personal tax return.

  • You can use My Account for individual returns including partnerships and sole proprietorships.  You will be able to see the status of your return, set up direct debit information, make payments, get information on your RRSP and TFSA as well as submit documents and update your contact information.
  • From mobile devices you can use the MyCRA app for individual tax returns that allows you to view the status of your return and your notice of assessment, your TSFA/RRSP contribution limits, manage direct deposits and update your contact information.
  • You can call the CRA Telerefund line at 1-800-959-1956 or the Tax Information Phone Service (TIPS) line at 1-800-267-6999.  To be able to access your tax information you need to be able to provide the following to identify yourself.
    • Social insurance number
    • Full Name
    • Date of Birth
    • Details from your account or a previous assessed return

The earliest you can expect information to be available via Telerefund or TIPS is mid-March if you filed before mid-February.  Otherwise you need to wait four weeks after filing between mid- February and mid-April and at least six weeks after mid-April.

Your Return/Refund May be Delayed:

  • If your contact information has changed and you do not update the CRA.  If they need to verify information, it will take longer to process your return.
  • If there are errors on your return. Misreporting income or expenses can delay your return and put you at risk of an audit.
  • You have large changes in your deduction claims year over year
  • Your tax history, if you have previously been reassessed or penalized
  • Your return has been randomly selected for review 

You May not get the Refund you are Expecting if the CRA keeps some of it: 

  • To cover a balance owing from previous years.
  • You have a garnishment order under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act
  • You owe other federal, provincial or territorial government debts such as student loans, employment insurance and social assistance benefit overpayments, immigration loans and training allowance repayments.
  • You have an outstanding GST/HST payments from a sole proprietorship or partnership
  • Your refund is $2 or less.

Do you Have to Declare Hobby Income?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax , Small Business

Did you know that what you think is a hobby the CRA may see as a business?  If you are making a profit from your hobby, then it is a defined as a business by Canada Revenue.  It does not matter if your hobby is small, you still have to declare any income from it on your tax return.

However, it may not always obvious to you whether your hobby is taxable or not.  For example:  

  • Producing crafts to sell at a Christmas sale might be seen by the CRA as a business, but if you are actually spending more on the materials to make the crafts then you ARE NOT making a profit, so you don’t have to declare any business income.  
  • However, in a second example you may be buying items at clearance or garage sales, marking them up and reselling them on-line.  In this example you ARE making a profit, so you need to declare this as income.

The income you make must be reported on Form T2125 Statement of Business or Professional Activities, which is included with the T1 income tax return package.

Doing this extra paperwork does have some major advantages.  You can write off your business expenses against income, including business-use-of-home expenses, meals and entertainment expenses, motor vehicle expensesetc.  You can also use the Capital Cost Allowanceto annually write off a portion of assets.  To claim these expenses, you must keep track of all your sales and expenses and all of your receipts.

If you have income from a regular job, the net loss from your hobby gets deducted against your total income which may result in a lower tax bill.   However, there are limits: you cannot continue to write off losses from your hobby year after year without the CRA using the profit test to see whether or not your activities are conducted with a “reasonable expectation of profit”.

 From an article by Susan Ward

 

Inexpensive ways to Market your Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Promotion is such a crucial part of your business that even though it might not be your favourite activity you should spend at least an hour a day either promoting or planning how to promote your business.  Getting the word out is so important that however you do it, it must be done continuously.  Business promotion should be part of your business budget, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Here are some inexpensive ways to promote your business that mostly cost only your time. 

  • Business Communications – You have business cards, but you also send out a lot of other documents. You need to make sure that your business name, logo, contact information, social media links and web address are on all documents that you send out either printed or electronic. It is easy to update electronic documents such as email with promotions, special prices, or company news.  It then becomes not just an email but a business promotion tool.
  • Turn your Vehicle into a Mobile Billboard – Use vehicle wrap to advertise your business. Hundreds if not thousands of people see your vehicle every day which makes this a very inexpensive way to promote your business.
  • Use Social Media – Social media platforms are a great way to promote your business.  To get started, create a social media plan.  It is important to post regularly, include videos of your products which can also be posted on YouTube.
  • Blogging and Writing Articles – Write blogs and articles specific to your business which will be valuable information for the reader.  Include a short biographical note about you and your business to make it more personal. Although you will mostly post these blogs to your own website think about placing your blog on another website related to your business as a guest blog, but make sure that it is a professional looking site that gets lots of traffic otherwise it will not help and could in fact hurt your business.
  • Use Buddy Marketing – This involves joining up with another business that compliments your own. Pooling your resources to create a marketing program can extend your reach and bring you into contact with a new pool of potential customers.  
  • Give out Freebies - People love to get freebies, you can give out items such as pens, hats etc. to promote your business and also use them as customer “rewards”.
  • Promote your Business by Giving a Seminar or Presentation – You have expertise that other people want so why not share it and promote your business at the same time? Many Government sponsored organizations such as Business Service Centres, Economic Development Centres and non-profit programs are always looking for experienced business people to give presentations.
  • Promote Your Business Through your Leisure Activities – Promote your business by wearing a T. Shirt that displays the name of your company.  If your kids play on a sports team, consider becoming a sponsor and get your name on the team uniforms.  Get in the habit of promoting your business wherever you go to build word-of-mouth. If you are involved in a group activity try and include your business information on their newsletters so that you are letting people know what you do and how it could benefit them.
  • Promote your Business on a Talk Show – your local radio station or tv station may have programs where you can appear as a guest expert.  

These are just a few of the ways that you can promote your business without spending huge amounts of money although spending more can pay off as well and don’t forget that promotion expenses are tax-deductible.  

From an article by Susan Ward

Top New Years Resolutions for Business Success

By Randall Orser | Small Business

As we begin a new year, many business owners will consider the performance of their business in the past year and think about how they want to progress going forward. One big question to ask yourself is “Do want to continue building on your success?” or “Do you want to take more time to enjoy the success that you already have?”  Here are some ideas to help you to strike a better balance between your work and your life in 2019.

  • Learn to Delegate– you do not need to do everything that is needed to run your small business, let someone else do some of the tasks.  For example, if you are a one-person operation why not hire a bookkeeper to take care of your accounting and even pay your bills for you?
  • Promote your Business Regularly and Consistently – This is one of the tasks that often falls to the bottom of the to-do list but if you want to attract new customers then promotions must be a priority.  Again, consider hiring a marketing expert to do your social media and website updates. Otherwise create a marketing plan for the year so that you know what you need to promote each month and how you are going to do it.
  • Make Business Planning a Weekly Event – Set time aside each week go review what worked and what didn’t work so that you can set a new direction for your business.  This will help you to avoid mistakes stay on track resulting in more focus and less stress.
  • Learn Something New – Whether or not it is related to your business, learning something new adds to your skills and gives you a new interest in life.  This is important in helping to achieve a work-life balance. In addition, you have the opportunity to meet new people who may become customers.
  • Join a New Business Organization or Networking Group– Meet new people either in person or online and share ideas which will benefit your business.  Approach these meetings with a strategy so that you get the most out of them.
  • Give Back to your Community– Volunteering or donating within your community will grow goodwill for your business.  
  • Put Time for yourself on your Calendar – Make time to recharge and refresh yourself and stick to that commitment it is important for your physical and mental health to take time off from working.
  • Set Realistic Goals – Goal setting is valuable as long as it leads to success and not failure. Make sure that the goals that you set are achievable.  Unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and failure.
  • Don’t Just Make do Get a New One – If you have equipment in your office that is making your work more difficult then replace it.  If you are overwhelmed with work, hire a new employee to lighten your workload, it will be worth it.
  • Figure out What Works and What Doesn’t and Make Changes – this might mean dropping a product line or a supplier or a business relationship.  Don’t waste time and energy trying to make the unworkable workable, move on.

Achieving a good work-life balance takes time and you have to keep working on it.  Adopting the above techniques will help you to feel better and have more energy to devote to your business and make it successful. 

From an article by Susan Ward

5 Early Steps to Get Ready for Tax Time

By Randall Orser | Happy New Year , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Small Business

HAPPY NEW YEAR

While you are nursing that hangover or catching up on sleep might not be the best time to remind you that the last year is over and that you need to start thinking about filing your taxes! but here it is!

You are probably not too excited about filing your taxes but look at this as a great opportunity to review your finances and getting organized early will save you the pain and hassle of doing everything at the last minute.  

Here are some simple steps to help you to reduce your stress and get yourself on track for filing your taxes by the end of April or even a little earlier!

  1. Make an Account List:  Start by making a list of all your financial accounts. If you have a small business, you need to create both a personal and a business account list.  Include bank accounts, credit cards, investments, retirement, and every other financial account you have. Unused but still open accounts should be included on your list.  If these accounts are old and inactive now is a good time to close them. Make sure all of your accounts are accounted for in your bookkeeping software, so you don’t miss any transactions. If you forget to write off an eligible business expense, that is money you are giving money to the CRA that should be in your pocket!
  2. Get your Bookkeeping up to date:  If you have been ignoring your bookkeeping for a while, it’s time to get caught up! You’ll need copies of your annual income statement, which is the core document used to prepare your business taxes.  You might also need your balance sheet and depending on the registration of the business you run, you may also need to list assets and liabilities on your taxes, which comes from the balance sheet. Remember that errors in your bookkeeping can lead to errors on your taxes. You don’t want to pay too much and lose out on profits you should keep. Similarly, you don’t want to underreport and find yourself on thewrong side of an audit, fines, and penalties. Making sure your books are done, and done accurately, is key to tax season success.  If bookkeeping is not your thing, it might be a good idea to enlist the help of a professional bookkeeper who will keep your records in order for you so that everything is ready for tax time.
  3. Put Together a Tax Form Checklist:  Make a list of all the sources that you expect to get tax forms from.  These can be from bank accounts, investments, educational institutions and the government. You can put your checklist in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets for easier access using your phone. Whichever method you use, make sure you have all the forms you need before you file your taxes, or you will have to file an update to your return if something is missed and this can be a big hassle.
  4. Create a Tax Form Folder (digital and physical):  When the forms arrive, it is easy to set them aside to open later then misplace them.  Train yourself to open everything right away and file it in a folder either physically or digitally.  You can use Dropbox to store digital copies and add in scanned paper copies so that you have everything together.
  5. Choose your Filing Method:  Decide whether you want to do your taxes yourself online, or you want to hire a bookkeeper or accountant to do them for you. Think about how knowledgeable or comfortable you are about doing your taxes.  If the answer if not very, you should use a professional to avoid making mistakes or missing deductions.

Taxes don't Have to be Terrible! 

You may dread tax season, but taxes don’t have to be a horrible part of your finances and your business. You do them every year, so find ways to make the process easier and faster.  Preparation well in advance can be the key to a successful filing and just think how satisfying it is when it is all done for another year! 

From an article by Eric Rosenberg

Have you Made Your New Year Financial Resolutions Yet?

By Randall Orser | Happy New Year , Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax

Looking forward to the new year, some of us like to make New Year’s Resolutions – some we keep, some we don’t, but how many of us make Financial New Year’s Resolutions?  It might be something that you want to think about for 2019.  

Resolve to do Better– we all start off the new year gung-ho about our New Year’s Resolutions then we get disheartened when we don’t see instant results, and we fall off the wagon.  The solution is to start small and be happy with small results rather than expecting a major overnight change in your money situation.  Resolve to manage your money better than you did last year. 

Identify Your Financial Goals– before you can make any progress towards your goals you need to know what they are – repay your car loan? buy a new home? retire early? To increase your chance of success you need to be specific about your goals then outline a plan of attack. Look at your financial performance last year and be honest - did you overspend or overborrow? Reconsider your financial mistakes and resolve to do better in 2019 and it is important to continue to review your progress periodically throughout the year.   

Get a Support System, your spouse should always be part of your team as you should be working together towards your financial goals.  Taking a personal finance class together will help you recognise where you are damaging your finances.  Share money saving ideas with family and friends.

Here are the Five Main Financial Goals that you should consider for the new year.

Start to Budget – Start tracking your spending because before you can commit to sticking to a budget you need to know exactly where your money is going, see where you are overspending and plan to reduce the cash leak in that area.  Use Personal Finance software to help you to easily track your finances.  

Get out of Debt – this is a key goal to taking control of your finances.  Prioritize your debts – organize your debts by their interest rate, pay them off in order of the highest ones first.  Fast track your debt payoff goals, instead of saying “I am going to pay off all my debts this year” which is a big goal, commit to contributing a little more to your monthly payments.  An extra $50 a month can make a big difference.  Think about ways of raising extra money to pay off debts maybe selling unwanted items or taking as second job.

Start Saving Money 

  • Reduce your grocery bill and stop eating out.
  • Find ways to save on utilities, cut ties with cable and start streaming.
  • Close any bank or credit accounts you don’t need, this could save you bank charges.  
  • Call your credit card company to try and negotiate a lower interest rate.
  • Boost your retirement savings and set a monthly savings goal.  
  • Automate as many monthly payments as possible. In this way you make payments without thinking about it, so it becomes a habit to expect these deductions from your bank account each month.  
  • Commit to no-spend days or weekends.  Make this a time when no money at all leaves your bank account, eat at home, find free entertainment and skip shopping.  
  • Get healthy without joining a gym – try doing on-line exercise videos for free and get outside for walks and hikes.  
  • Collect your change – try and use cash to pay for things and keep your change. Throw it into a jar. It is amazing how much you can accumulate over a year, and this money can go towards paying off a debt.

Learn about Money and Finances - Subscribe to a financial podcast (Randall does one every Friday at 11am).  Increase your financial knowledge by listening to the experts.  Alternatively commit to reading at least one personal finance book this year (there are lots to choose from at your local library for free!)   

Learn about investing or re-evaluate your investment portfolio – sit down with your financial advisor to see if your current plan is meeting your goals or if you need to make changes.  Make it a goal to invest a certain amount each month.

Some great ideas to get you started on the road to financial recovery, good luck in 2019.

Five Tips for Setting up a “Uh-Oh” Fund

By Randall Orser | Investments , Personal Finances

Heading into the New Year is a good time to think about organizing your finances.  

Do you have a fund to cover those “UH-OH” moments? You know when, you lose your job, have an expensive vet bill, or your car breaks down!  Here are some tips on how to plan for these unexpected events by setting up an emergency fund.

  1. Open a savings account that you can access easily - ensure you can make withdrawals while still earning interest.  An Account Comparison Tool will help you find the right one.
  2. Be realistic with your savings plan – don’t worry about starting small. Determine what you can put aside each week or month to start right away.  Aim for a fund which covers 3-6 months of your regular expenses which might seem like a lot of money, but it can be achieved even if you start small.
  3. Make it a habit – set up automatic withdrawals from an account to your savings account or set up a reminder on your phone or computer.  Tuck away small change into a container, you will be amazed how quickly it adds up!
  4.  Eliminate a monthly expense and add it to your fund – simple things like bringing your lunch to work can add up over a month.  Think about things that you pay for now that you might be able to do without.  Here are some suggestions.           
    • Cut one non essential food from your grocery list.
    • Eat what you buy and definitely buy what you are definitely going to eat. Calculate how much money you waste by throwing food away (and Canadians are some of the worst people for doing this!) and it will shock you.
    • Make your coffee at home and take it to work
    • Use discount coupons
  5. Use an expense calculator to add up how much small daily expenses can accumulate over a year.
  6. Look for opportunities to increase your fund – review your goals regularly and adjust your contributions based on your circumstances.  Add any extra money you receive to your fund for example a tax refund.
  7. When shopping at a big box store, calculate how much it will cost, take that amount in cash to pay for your items and leave your bank card at home.  That way you will not be tempted to buy things that you don’t really need.  

There are lots of other ways to painlessly save money - talk to your friends and compare tips and ideas

How to Protect Your Records in Case of Emergency

By Randall Orser | Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax

When putting together an emergency plan should the “Big One” happen, food, water and shelter will usually be the priorities. However, protecting your most important family documents should also be part of that plan.  

In the aftermath of any emergency event some documents will be immediately important, for example insurance policies.  You can keep physical copies, store electronic copies on a USB, DVD, or remotely and there are free apps on your phone where you can record copies and email them to yourself or a relative.  

For birth certificates or licenses and other one-page documents you can take a picture on your phone, although these will not have legal standing, they may make it easier to replace them. 

The best way to protect your documents is at either at home in a grab and go waterproof and fireproof container (easy to buy), or off-site in a safety deposit box at your bank or at the remote home of a friend or relative.   

What Documents Need Protecting?

  • Government issued Vital Records - such as birth and marriage certificates, passports, citizenship papers, drivers licenses, and social security documents. You should also keep pet ID’s and records.
  • Home and property information, deeds, mortgage information, car titles and appraisal documents for jewelry and other valuables.
  • Insurance Policies – you will need policy numbers and contact information for your homeowners, renters, flood, earthquake, auto, life, health etc. policies. Make sure you read your policy well beforehand so that you know what your coverage is.  It is also a good idea to take photographs or do a room by room video to help you make an inventory your possessions.
  • Medical information – including prescriptions (drug name and dosage), health insurance numbers, physician name and contact information, powers of attorney and living wills.
  • Estate Planning documents, wills, trusts, funeral instructions, and lawyer information.
  • Financial records including tax returns, credit card and bank account numbers and financial contact information.

Having this information easily accessible will make getting your needs met after a disaster a lot easier when many providers will be overwhelmed.

For more information on making an emergency plan visit http://getprepared.ca/

Top Small Business Opportunities for 2019

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Are you thinking about starting your own business next year? Here are some of the best small business ideas for 2019, many of which can be operated as a home-based business.  
All these opportunities

  • Have the potential to be profitable now and in the future
  • Will do well even when the economy is uncertain
  • Do not require a high level of education or years of experience.  Some need trade school training, a university degree or a prior apprenticeship, others only need experience and a passion for the industry
  • Do not require a lot of start-up capital but do need lots of dedication, hard work, perseverance and a desire to succeed!
  1. Fulfillment by Amazon – this program allows you to market your products through Amazon and takes the headaches out of running an online retail business.  In exchange for fulfillment and monthly storage fees Amazing handles storage, packing, shipping, returns, customer service enquiries as well as listing your product on their website.  Once your listing is live and sales begin you receive your portion of the proceeds on a weekly basis.  
  2. Skilled Trades  Nowadays being in the trades can be a very well paid and rewarding career choice.  As trades people are retiring there is a huge demand for talented workers and the nature of skilled trades make them ideally suited for self-employment.  Many can be operated as home-based businesses as the work is actually done at the customer’s job site.  Start-up costs are relatively low, and most trades cannot be automated to any degree ensuring future job security.  There is also the opportunity to travel to other locations to receive higher compensation.
  3. Software Engineering and Development – The demand for software engineers and developers is expected to increase by 17% by 2023 and the median pay in 2017 was over $100,000 making it a great business opportunity for those who have these skills. Many people start off as employees and then become self-employed contractors.  Using Cloud Computing and remote access it is easy to make this a home-based business.
  4. Meal Kit Sales and Delivery – Meal kits have become very popular with busy people and the industry is expected to reach $10 billion in sales in the US by 2020. Meal kit suppliers usually source ingredients from local farms which also creates business for small growers and delivery providers to pick up and deliver to customers.
  5. Bike Sales, Service and Rentals – Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity by frequency of participation in the US.  This has resulted in $81billion being spent annually on biking.  This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneur who loves cycling.
  6.  Senior Care Services – Senior care ranks as one of the best business opportunities as people are living longer. Many of these people create a wealthy demographic that can afford to pay for services to help them to maintain their lifestyle including driving, household chores, property maintenance, landscaping and caring for pets.  There are many opportunities for those who are interested in starting their own business or being part of a franchise.
  7. Gourmet Coffee – If you think that you could not compete with Starbucks you it might be easier than you think. You need to open your coffee house in a convenient location for foot, cycle and vehicle traffic with lots of parking. You must offer a pleasant atmosphere including an outdoor patio. Serve a high-quality beverage made from small-batch specialty coffees that are served by trained baristas so that the product is always consistent and just sell brewed coffee and pastries do not try to compete with fast food outlets.
  8. Facilities Support Services  Providing a full range of services for businesses including cleaning, security, building maintenance, painting, and moving is an industry expected to grow by 30% by 2026.  All you need is a background in maintenance and good organizational skills.
  9. Food Trucks – Food trucks are no longer just hot dog stands they now provide healthy nutritious food, and many have their own specialties such as vegetarian or ethnic. Ingredients are usually locally sourced and often have a seasonally changing menu.  If you are able to create great food this could be a good business opportunity for you.

So what are you waiting for? Start writing that business plan for 2019!

From an article by Susan Ward

How to Get More Christmas Sales for Your Small Business

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Small Business

During the Christmas Season there is only one thing that matters to retailers - the sales graph.  This can be make-or-break time for many small businesses and it is important that those sales climb as steeply as possible.

To get greater sales it is obvious that you need to get more customers. How can you get more customers? You need to make sure that more people see or experience the quality or unique product or service that you are offering so that they will buy. With a little effort and ingenuity, you can get potential customers into your store, and it might not be as hard as you think.  Here are a few ideas to help you to create your Christmas Rush:

Have a Sale

  • Most retailers have a Christmas Sale and nowadays they are not waiting for Boxing Day to do it.  Customers are inundated with Christmas advertising, so you need to make your sale stand out from the rest and be an event that everyone will want to attend. How can you do that?
  • Offer a big discount on a popular item for just one day.
  • Decide if you want to make it a discount or a free gift with purchase. 
  • Make sure your discount is worthwhile, people are not interested in only 10 or 20% unless it is a storewide sale.

Advertise your sale heavily on the best channels for your customers, social media, radio, etc. people need to hear about it to show up to your store.

Hold an Event  -  Create an event which ties into your product or services, for example a free cooking or home improvement class with a guest presenter, or a wine and food tasting with a chef.  Think about how this event will benefit the customer making them want to attend.

Use an Email Campaign - Social Media is a good way to get the news out, but an email blitz has been shown to be the most effective way to attract customers. Most businesses already send out an email newsletter so make sure it includes details of any sales or specials at Christmas. Feature items that customers will want as a limited quantity and create a demand.  You can also send out separate emails to “special” customers making sure that you personalize them offering them extra discounts not available to everyone, this makes them feel special and encourages them to shop with you.

Create an Attractive Window Display that is unique, eye-catching and foot-stopping to catch foot traffic that might usually walk right by your store.  Work your crowd, offer cookies or a free hot drink to people who are admiring your display to bring them into your store.

All of these strategies can be used as part of your Christmas Season marketing plan, but whatever you decide to do the most important thing is to get the word out to your target market and invite customers to your physical or virtual store.  Without customers your Christmas Season will be a non-event and not a good gift for your bottom line!

From an article by Susan Ward 

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