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.

Have You Made Your Tax Instalments This Year?

By Randall Orser | Sales Taxes

You may be a self-employed person, and if you end up owing more than $3,000 in income taxes, then you will have to make instalments the next year. Other than the self-employed person who has no tax taken off their income during the year, there are reasons why you may owe tax come April 30th. This can happen if you earn income from rentals, investments, certain pension payments, or income from more than one job. If you have more than one job, you are only allowed to claim your exemptions on one job; the other jobs you should claim zero (0).

There are two factors to consider when determining if you have to pay tax by instalments: 1) your net tax owing; 2) your province or territory of residence.

You have to pay your income tax by instalments for 2017 if both of the following apply:

  • your net tax owing for 2017 will be above the threshold for your province or territory ($1,800 or $3,000)
  • your net tax owing in either 2016 or 2015 was above the threshold for your province or territory

You do not have to pay your income tax by instalments for 2017 if your net tax owing for 2017 will be $3,000 or less ($1,800 or less for residents of Quebec), even if you received an instalment reminder in 2017.

If you received an instalment reminder that shows an amount to pay, you may have to pay your income tax by instalments.

If your main source of income in 2017 is self-employment income from farming or fishing, you must make an instalment payment if both of the following apply:

  • your net tax owing for 2017 will be above the threshold for your province or territory ($1,800 or $3,000)
  • your net tax owing for 2016 and 2015 was above the threshold for your province or territory ($1,800 or $3,000)

Your province or territory of residence will determine the threshold of net tax owing you will use when determining if you have to pay tax by instalments. If you live in Quebec on December 31 of a year, use a limit of $1,800 of net tax owing. If you live in any other province or territory on December 31 of a year, use a limit of $3,000 of net tax owing.

What is an instalment reminder?

An instalment reminder is sent to help you determine if you have to pay income tax by instalments. The reminder will suggest an amount to pay and list the calculation options.

CRA sends instalment reminders to people who may have to pay tax by instalments:

  • The February reminder is for the March and June payments
  • The August reminder is for the September and December payments

If you only received an August reminder, and the reminder does not mention a March or June 2017 instalment payment, follow the instructions that apply to you:

No-calculation option – Pay the amount shown in box 2 of your reminder for September 15 and December 15.

Prior-year option – Calculate your 2016 net tax owing and add any CPP contributions payable, and any voluntary EI premiums payable. Pay 75% of the total on September 15 and 25% on December 15.

Current-year option – Estimate your current-year 2017 net tax owing and add any CPP contributions payable, and any voluntary EI premiums payable. Pay 75% of the total on September 15 and 25% on December 15.

If you received an instalment reminder and you are required to pay instalments but do not comply, you may have interest and penalty charges.

You can also see your instalment reminders online using My Account.

Instalment interest and penalty charges

You will be charged interest if all of the following conditions apply:

  • CRA sends you an instalment reminder in 2017 that shows an amount to pay
  • you must pay by instalment in 2017
  • you did not make instalment payments, or you made payments that were late or you paid less than what you had to pay

CRA charges instalment interest on all late or insufficient instalment payments. Instalment interest is compounded daily at the prescribed interest rate, which can change every three months.

How does CRA determine the interest?

  1. CRA calculates interest on each instalment payment that you should have paid from the day it was due to your balance due date based on the payment option that results in the least amount of interest.
  2. CRA calculates the interest on each instalment you paid for the year starting from the later of the date the payment was made or January 1 up to the balance due date.

Then, they determine the interest you owe by charging the difference between a. and b., if the difference is more than $25.

Instalment penalty

You may have to pay a penalty if your instalment payments are late or less than the required amount. CRA applies this penalty only if your instalment interest charges for 2017 are more than $1,000.

To calculate the penalty, CRA determines which of the following amounts is higher:

  • $1,000
    or
  • 25% of the instalment interest that you would have had to pay if you had not made instalment payments for 2017

Then, CRA subtracts the higher amount from your actual instalment interest charges for 2017. Finally, CRA divides the difference by two and the result is your penalty.

As you can see, it is definitely worth it to make your instalment payments if you get any kind of instalment reminder from CRA. If it’s your first year being self-employed, and you know you’ll owe more than $3,000 come February, for the following year you’ll want to make those instalment payments in March/June/September/December. In the end, paying by instalments does relieve you of that huge bill come April 30th.

Six Growth Initiatives to Help Build a Long-term Business Strategy

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Building a profitable business is much more than launching a website and hoping for the best. The smart entrepreneur realizes he needs a plan, and a long-term one at that. Growth initiatives are definitely part of a premiere business strategy. Thinking about challenges and opportunities that could come up allows you to stack the odds of success in your favour. Here are six growth initiatives you should think about adopting in your business plan.

Managing Operating Costs

If you’re not watching your operating costs, they can get quite out of hand and quickly. You’re approving work orders, signing off on supply purchases, and hiring additional staff, which can add up noticeably. You need to have a definite plan together before these operational costs escalate. The profitability of your business greatly depends on you managing your operational costs.

Improving Profitability Ratios

How do you plan on improving profitability over time? Are you expecting reduced supply costs will just generally occur? It is critical that you plan for profitability improvements. Unless you want your revenue-to-expense margins to take a nosedive, you must develop a plan to address ways to increase company profits.

Maintaining Workforce Productivity

Workforce productivity is another key growth initiative that many business owners dread facing. It’s perfectly natural for your employees’ enthusiasm and job performance to slowly wane over time. In order to position your company for success, you need a strategic plan in place to address productivity. You could look at gamification to rewards-based incentive programs to keep your workers engaged and productive.

Inventory Management

To keep your business running smooth, you need an inventory management plan. You could be hurting your business with too much inventory, as well if you have too little; customers may go elsewhere if your inventory is too old, or you don’t have enough to meet demand. You should be prepared for supplier shortages as well as seasonal product demands, so you can ensure your sales don’t take an abrupt dip.

Product Development

To stay ahead of the competition, you need to incorporate product development into your growth initiatives. Realizing that your sales will stagnate if your business never innovates is an essential business truth you need to address. Constructing a product development strategy helps you to remain excited about your business growth opportunities and gives your sales people opportunities to look forward to.

Competitive Businesses

Once your business becomes profitable, you’re going to have competition. You could face local competitors and international knock-offs. Now, you won’t be able to stop the copycats from copying your business, however, you can plan for their arrival. Will you try to buyout your competitors and/or hire their staff? Will you patent your technology? Or trademark certain systems you’ve developed? That old cliché ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was never truer than when it comes to your competition. You can deal with potential competitors by having a plan for such a strategy in place.

Putting growth initiatives into your business plans benefits your company’s readiness for success so you’re not blindsided by challenges you should’ve had the smarts to plan for. Your top priority should be to build a company that survives over the long-term. Unless you want a flash-in-the-pan business, you must have a strong growth strategy. Are you ready for the challenges above as you grow your business?

Ensure You Have All Your Medical Receipts

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

It’s the digital age, and the government is somewhat getting behind that by allowing us to electronically file our tax returns. However, with that Efile® comes the problem that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) doesn’t get all your receipts and/or slips like it used to when we paper filed. The number of ‘reviews’ has increased considerably over the years, and one of the big ones CRA reviews is medical receipts.

CRA can do a pre-assessment review of your medical expenses where they ask for your medical receipts before they actually process your return. This usually happens when you have a large amount for medical expenses; that could be $5000 or up.

Then there’s the post-assessment review where they process your return as filed, however, later in the year when CRA has time, they’ll look at medical expenses. This happens when they either couldn’t get to your return pre-assessment, or the amount wasn’t at their threshold at that time.

Either way, you’ll get a letter from CRA outlining what they’re looking at and what they require. Something like this:

Dear Madam:                                                                                    

Re: Income Tax and Benefit Return for 2016

​Account Number         XXX XXX 264

Reference Number      TB1718 6045 7310

We regularly conduct review programs as an important part of the self-assessment tax system. To determine if we have assessed your return con-ectly, we need more information. Please note, if you claimed a provincial or territorial 11011-reftmdableta x credit that corresponds to the federal tax credit

under review, we will review both credits at the same time.

Medical expenses          Amount being reviewed $x,xxx.00

LINES 330 AND 331 OF SCHEDULE 1

To support your claim for medical expenses for self, spouse or common-law partner, and your dependent children born in 1999 or later, and/or the allowable amount of medical expenses for other dependents, please provide the following information, as applicable:

all receipts, forms, and/or other supporting documents or medical certificates;

Receipts have to include the following information:

the name of the patient;

the type of service provided;

the amount and date of the payment for the services provided;

the name of the person who made the payment;

If submitting a pharmacy statement, it should also contain the name of the

controlled drug, preparation, substance, or the Drug Identification Number (DIN).

NOTE: Cancelled cheques and cheque images are not acceptable receipts.

a detailed statement from the insurance company confirming:

the name of the patient;

the date and the amount of the payment;

the name of the controlled drug, preparation;

the kind of medical, paramedical, and/or dental expenses;

the amount that has been or can be reimbursed.

  • indicate the 12-month period used. If a 12-month period is not indicated, we will use the calendar year.
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Five Ridiculously Simply Ways to Improve Your Christmas Marketing

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’ve had a great year so far, you’re busy, sales have been solid, and you’re well on your way to a profitable year. You know your company has the holiday spirit and you want to highlight that come November and December; however, where do you start. There’s tons of ways, some won’t even cost you a penny, to tune up your normal marketing efforts to accentuate your businesses lighthearted mood. Which of the following ridiculously simple ways will attract those super shoppers to your business?

Seasonal Pinterest Board

On your board, share images of your holiday decorations, staff members in festive garb, or the latest products you brought in for the Christmas season. Festive quotes are another way to round out your collections, and you now have a holiday board perfectly poised to bring seasonal cheer to your customers. Publish local events, and use relevant keywords to attract local patrons to your Pinterest board and your business.

After Hours Holiday Event

This is a great way to thank your customers and perhaps get new customers. Have your guests register in the weeks leading up to the event by offering a drop box for their business cards or registration forms. You could even make it a by invite only event, or have a pre-party for your best customers. At the event, promote new products you’ll soon be launching or spotlight stock arrivals for spring and summer. Everyone is busy during the holidays, so ensure your event is captivating enough that they’ll make time in their packed schedules.

Local Charity Event

Is there a local charity everyone can get behind? The food bank is a great one, and they’re usually up for being part of your event. Tailor your event to what the charity’s greatest need is, and then adapt the event specially for those needs.

Create a Seasonal Video

A seasonal video is a great way to promote the business and post it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The funnier you make your video the better the chances are for social shares. Maybe find a local Santa and have him talking and laughing with you about the naughty and nice employees in your business.

Video Contest

You may not feel comfortable doing your own video, maybe think about a video contest amongst your customers. The best video can win a gift certificate from your business, maybe a basket of your products, or something else. Your customers will have fun connecting with your company, plus you get a wealth of user-generated content for your website or YouTube channel.

Marketing for the holiday season doesn’t have to be hard as long as you get creative approach. What would resonate with your customers, and still give you a reasonable ROI for your efforts. Think creatively, and you’ll be able to conjure up lots of great ideas to fine-tune your marketing plans for the holiday season.

Should I Invest in my RRSPs now?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Now is the perfect time to check where you RRSP contributions have been for the year, and where they’ll be in by the end of February. Do you have the room to put more in? Do you have some extra funds lying around? You may want to put the funds in now, and earn some income on them rather than wait until February; plus, you’re beating the rush and not scrambling to get them in by March 1st.

I’m going to assume you know what is an RRSP, and have hopefully checked what your contribution limit is for the year. Does your work have a pension plan? If so, how much have you contributed so far, as that comes your contribution limit.  If you’ve reached your contribution limit, then what about your spouse? You can always put money into their RRSP, up to their contribution limit (they would need to be the contributor and annuitant).

Planning Opportunities

Contribute early in the year. This helps shelter income for a longer period and increases the compounding of the income in the plan. A monthly plan can also be used to help with cash flow.

Use the spousal plan (including common-law spouse) as much as possible to split the income tax upon withdrawal. Remember not to withdraw from any spousal plan until 3 years after the last contribution was made or it will be added to the income of the contributor. Note that it is the timing of the payment of contributions to a spousal RRSP that governs this recapture rule, not when (or whether) you claimed a deduction.

Make your money work for you. Consider other investments within your RRSP, such as mutual funds. Carefully consider what you invest in to maximize your return. (See schedule on page 3)

Utilize “rollovers” (special RRSP contributions). You may find yourself in a situation where you receive a payment which qualifies for special contribution treatment.

These special situations include:

  • Special payments you receive on leaving employment, either in recognition of long service or as damages for loss of office. Note that years of service after 1995 no longer qualify;
  • Lump-sum payments received from foreign pension plans for services performed outside Canada;
  • Lump-sum payments received from a United States IRA and taxable in Canada;
  • Amounts received from the RRSP or RRIF of a spouse, or in some cases, a parent or grandparent, who has died; and • The “cost amount” of shares you receive, directly or through a trust, in a special lump-sum distribution from a DPSP.

The magic of compound interest! Annual contributions of $13,500 at an average interest rate of 8% per annum made at the beginning of each year accumulate over $15,000 more interest in the first 10 years than contributions made at the end of the year. After 25 years, the difference is over $75,000!

The compounding effect of interest earned on the RRSP is clearly demonstrated above by the difference in interest rates. An investment of $13,500 per year at 6% interest per annum grows to $785,111 at the end of 25 years, while the same amount invested at 8% grows to $1,065,885.


Should You Borrow to Finance an RRSP

Interest on money borrowed to make RRSP contributions is not a deductible expense for tax purposes. If you have a choice between borrowing to make an RRSP contribution or borrowing to make another investment, you should always borrow to make the other investment. The interest paid on the investment loan may well qualify for tax deduction and thus offset the cost of borrowing.

Spousal RRSP

A spousal RRSP is an RRSP which names your spouse rather than yourself as the “annuitant” but you have made the contribution. Any amount, which you could have contributed to your own plan under your current contribution limit, can instead be contributed to your spouse’s plan. Contributions made by you to your spouse’s RRSP can be deducted from your income. Your spouse will be taxed when the funds are withdrawn subject to the 3-year rule described in Planning Opportunities above.

Once a cohabitation relationship achieves the status of a common-law marriage under the 12-month or child rule, that marriage is considered to continue until there is a marital breakdown marked by a separation of at least 90 days.

Common-law spouses are included in the definition of spouse and are, therefore, eligible for the spousal plan, although there are still some questions as to how Canada Customs and Revenue Agency will monitor the common-law relationships.

The special rules on spousal RRSPs are very beneficial. Ideally, you and your spouse should have the same amount in your RRSPs at retirement. However, when using a spousal RRSP, you should note that the contributing spouse would be taxed on any withdrawals within 3 years of the last contribution to any spousal plan.

Are You Leaving Canada?

If you leave Canada for an extended period, you must determine whether you are going to become a non-resident for income tax purposes.

If you have withdrawn funds from an RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan (you qualify as “first-time home buyers” could borrow up to $20,000 from an RRSP to purchase a “principal place of residence”), and become a non-resident before acquiring your Canadian home, your withdrawals will be disqualified and added to your income in the year of withdrawal. You may cure the disqualification by refunding the withdrawal and cancelling your participation in the plan.

If you have withdrawn funds from an RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan and become a non-resident after acquiring your Canadian home, you must repay the entire withdrawal within 60 days of becoming a non-resident. To the extent that you do not repay the amount within 60 days, the unrepaid balance will be included in your income for the period of the year in which you were still a resident of Canada and taxed accordingly.

Now is a great time to review your RRSP, and what you want to accomplish with it this year. Think about all that money you’re missing out on by not investing now, and waiting until January or February of next year. That’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just sad.

Drive Your Business to Success with Smart Outsourcing

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’re going to go through many challenges while running your successful business all the while wearing multiple hats during your work week. There comes a point where you’re spread out so thin that it starts to harm the business, and you need to outsource some work to allow you to focus on the main reasons why you originally got into business. In your business where can you start outsourcing?

Credit Control

As a small business, you have the dilemma of being subservient to your cash flow, but probably don’t have the funds to have a department devoted to making customers pay on time. You could look at a factoring service (where you sell your invoices to a company), which solves the issue of outsourcing your credit control operations and the administration that goes with that. Invoice factoring also greatly strengthens your cash flow. With invoice factoring you get a part of the invoice right away, with the remainder paid upon collection less a fee. By combining the improvement in cash flow and lower administration costs makes credit control your first choice when outsourcing.

Staff Recruitment

Finding the right employees is the essence of a successful business, nevertheless finding and hiring able staff is tedious, and it’s usually not a skill most entrepreneurs have. A recruitment agency can help you find, interview, and select the best candidate for your business that’ll boost your human assets hugely, and for comparative little cost in both your time and money. Remember to hire slow and fire fast, don’t rush to hire someone just to fill a vacant position.

Digital Marketing

Your online presence via a website and social media as given rise to a new term, digital marketing. You could never be expected to keep on top of this whirlwind that is digital marketing, however, it’s a crucial part of success in today’s commerce. Finding the right agency will take time, and you probably will devote much time to finding that professional that is a fit; however, this can totally pay off by driving profitable business for years into the future.

Public Relations

While public relations is related to marketing it is a separate practice than can have a huge impact on your business success. A good public relations agency is continually on the lookout for ways to develop favourable publicity for your business, incorporating your reputation into the fibre of your niche. A PR agency has the expertise, experience, and carefully refined contacts list to promote your business in ways you probably wouldn’t have thought, thereby, allowing you to concentrate on getting your business ready to convert this exposure to profit.

Office Cleaning

You may not think it, but cleaning is a crucial approach to running your business, which is often underestimated as to its value. First impressions count whenever customers or others visit your establishment, and a messy office can suggest a carelessly managed enterprise. Now you’re probably thinking you don’t have the funds to hire a professional cleaner on your tight budget; however, when you do it yourself it’ll always drop down on your priority list. We all want our work place to be pleasant, and outsourcing the unglamourous activity of office cleaning to a professional cleaner can be cost-effective, and repay itself by improving your company’s image.

You started your business to carry out your passion and satisfy a drive and then these day-to-day nuts and bolts get in the way constraining your company when it should be flying. Smart outsourcing releases you, letting you concentrate your energies to drive your business forward toward success.

Cutting Payroll May End Up Hurting Sales

By Randall Orser | Small Business

According to recent studies by both the Harvard School of Business and the Wharton School of Business, striking the balance between too few and too many retail payroll hours is the key to increased retail sales. These studies run counter to the usual practice of cutting payroll when sales are down. 

The Harvard study, which focuses only on operations, suggests that increasing payroll yields up to seven percent in profit. The Wharton study, which includes customer satisfaction, suggests that increasing payroll, even moderately, yields up to 28 dollars in sales per one allocated payroll dollar.

The studies’ common denominator is that products do not sell themselves. Here are seven ways that automatically cutting retail payroll expenses often backfires and hurts retail sales.

In-stock reality. The Harvard study identified the weakest link in the supply chain as the front-line store. Even if shipments arrive on time, often they don’t make it to the floor due to reduced payroll hours. Similarly, items that are already on the floor cannot be replenished properly if retail shops don’t have the personnel to make it happen. A customer can’t buy a product that is not available.

In-stock perception

The Wharton study defines the term “in-stock” as more than availability. In-stock items are both available and sold by a knowledgeable associate, who can explain their benefits. This definition is based on study customers from over 500 unnamed stores. The question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” is ultimately answered based on satisfaction rather than on actual availability. Hence, the customer may not know exactly what he or she is looking for until an associate explains the choices, benefits, and drawbacks. Fewer associates mean fewer one-on-one interactions with customers. According to Wharton, in-stock perception is the same as customer satisfaction.

Loss of seasoned associates

When hours are reduced, seasoned associates — those who have the most sales experience as well as the most product knowledge — move to greener pastures. This means that customers are assisted by those who neither know the product well nor know how to best maximize a sale. The result is a customer who is less satisfied by his or her shopping experience. Less satisfaction equals less in-stock perception. Customers are more likely to answer “no” to the “did you find everything” question when they do not interact with a knowledgeable associate.

Hiring and training

When seasoned employees leave, companies must hire new associates. The notoriously short lifespan for newly hired retail associates, especially those under 30, means that each new hire is a gamble. Companies must gamble with training dollars as well as with putting an inexperienced sales person on the floor. And if the new hire doesn’t work out, they must repeat this process again and again until they find a talented associate. Naturally, without sufficient hours, talented associates tend to look for more profitable work, exacerbating the vicious cycle.

Customer focus

Customers who bond with a particular associate will look for that person again and again to help them find the right product. If a customer finds that the trusted associate has moved on, the customer may be disappointed enough abandon the planned purchase altogether. In the same way, seasoned associates can inform regular customers of new merchandise and special deals, bringing customers into the store without expensive marketing. Without long-term associate/customer relationships, potential sales are lost.

Task management

Shelves and racks need to be restocked. Bathrooms need to be cleaned. Floors need vacuuming. Check-out lines need to be expedited. The sales floor needs to be tidy. And the stock room needs a full-time manager. When associates perform task management, they are not helping customers. On the other hand, if they neglect task management, the shop begins to look run-down and cheap. Both on task or off, too few employees drive customers to other stores.

Online competition

If associates cannot help customers in the store, then customers soon find no reason to leave home. Online operations are almost always fully stocked, never have a line at the cashier, and do not require a drive to the mall. Associates are the primary difference between brick-and-mortar stores and online merchants. If associates are unavailable, then customers will stay home.

The ways that retail sales are affected by reduced payroll can be summed up in five key areas:

  • The product is unavailable.
  • Associates are unavailable.
  • Associates are not knowledgeable.
  • Associates are distracted by task work and are too busy to be helpful.
  • Check out is difficult.
  • In order to maximize profits, retail businesses should reconsider automatically reducing payroll to save money. While it may be illogical to those at head office, reducing payroll too much actually hurts the bottom line while increasing it only slightly can make a significant difference to retail the bottom line — as much as 28 dollars in sales per one allocated payroll dollar.

    Grow Your Business Profits – Five Simple Tips

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    A well-managed business has the capability of growing its revenue and profits, however, not all business types are profitable. There are countless elements that will determine your business success, including the nature of your business, target market, management, customer care and marketing. The following tips should give you some clarity in your business setup and allow you to prosper.

    Management

    Management can greatly contribute positively or negatively to your company’s growth, so take responsibility for the daily running of your business. Are you looking at hiring? Look for experienced professionals who have worked in your industry and are acquainted with the nature of your business. Can you motivate your employees? Probably not as well as you think you can. Good leaders lead by example, and get their employees on board quickly.

    What’s your company culture? Have you developed one? Find people that’ll fit into that culture. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees, or your customers, for suggestions on product or services development. You should be doing lots of research to enable you to make savvy business choices.

    Build Up Your Numbers

    You could increase your sales by spreading out your territory, whether geographic or demographic. The internet, especially social media, is a powerful tool which you need to embrace and expand your audience into other countries. Today it’s ensuring your online presence is set for mobile, this will allow you to tap into many more customers, especially the younger generations, as they’re mostly on mobile now. You need to boost your website ranking and visibility using Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

    Quality over Quantity

    If you want customers to return, you need to create quality products and package them professionally. Enhance your customers’ experience by offering your staff training in good customer etiquette. You could start a loyalty program for repeat customers, or offer gifts or discounts. Be very careful with discounts, as once you start offering them it can be very hard to stop. Of course, the most powerful form of marketing is ‘word of mouth’; give your customers a great experience and they’ll refer friends, family, etc.

    Expand to Other Market Segments

    Look around and see what products and/or services compliment what you’re doing. For example, an automobile dealership could grow sales by selling spare parts, a restaurant could offer catering services for special occasions, and a web designer could offer site hosting or server maintenance.

    Diversify

    You shouldn’t just offer one product or service, you need to look at creating new products and services to expand your market. Also, look at bundling existing products and/or services, and you’ll probably find you can charge more. What product and/or service can you find that’s ready for market, and allow you to grow your market share. Your best investment in those new products and/or services that will extend your reach.

    Reduce Expenses

    You need to look at your costs and audit them so you can maximize profits. This may require hiring someone, or perhaps your bookkeeper or accountant, however, that could be well worth the investment over time.

    Hire slow and fire fast. Do you have any unproductive employees? Get rid of the deadwood. If your energy bills are out of hand, look at alternative sources such as solar-powered water heating. Look for wherever there’s waste and seal those leakages. Do you have space you’re not using? Consider subletting it for extra revenue.

    Social Media

    Social media is pretty much a must in this day and age. It’s a great place to engage (that’s the operative word here) with your existing and potential customers. You need to figure out where your customers frequent and go there. If very few are on Facebook, that may not be the best place for your business. It all boils down to having a social media strategy, and hiring the right person who gets your business ethos, mission and vision.

    Social media is a great place to get feedback on your products and/or services, plus you find out where you can improve your offering. Be warned, people can be brutally honest on social media, and there are those that’ll diss you for no real reason. You can use social media to market to your new customers and respond appropriately when required. Social media is a great way to build trust and develop positive relationships by providing useful information to your audience.

    The point of all these strategies to is add value to your offering. You need to stop focusing on pricing and focus on value, which is what your customer is really looking at. Always be adding value, even when the price is high. Your customers are happy to spend more for what they feel as extra value, which leads to great profits despite the higher investment in cost.

    Your TFSA and Ten Things You Should Know

    By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

    In 2009, the government of the day created the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) as a means to efficiently invest more. Surprisingly, eight years in to the TFSA’s existence, some Canadians are still confused about how they actually work. And, no it’s not another way for the rich to save on taxes, it can benefit the ordinary Canadian too. We’re going to talk about 10 things you should know about the TFSA.

    You Can Have More Than One TFSA Account

    You can have multiple TFSA accounts at different institutions, however, they all share the same contribution limit. As of 2017, that limit is $5,500 per year. Good records are a must when you have multiple accounts, as you need to track your contributions and withdrawals as it’s much easier to over contribute by accident.

    Over Contributions Incur Penalties

    Whenever you go over your contribution limit, you will incur a penalty of 1% per month on that excess amount. This over contributing is a simple mistake because many people don’t under understand how the contribution limit works. This gets more complicated when you have multiple TFSAs, and you have several transactions happening throughout the year. Your best method of determining your contribution limit is to keep track of it yourself, or chat with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). They can let you know what your limit is for the year.

    Successor Holder vs. Beneficiary

    You can name a beneficiary to your TFSA, however, you may not realize you can name someone a ‘success holder’. Your beneficiary can be anyone you choose, such as a child, parent, or sibling; a successor holder can only be your spouse or common-law partner. Your beneficiary receives the proceeds of your TFSA upon your death, and the TFSA is closed. With a successor holder, your account is rolled into their TFSA which doesn’t affect their contribution room. If you have a spouse or common-law partner and want them to inherit your TFSA, it makes sense to name them successor holder as they can continue to grow your investments tax free; and, avoid taxes payable on any income on the account from your time of death to when the account is closed.

    Contributions in Kind

    Are you thinking about transferring from your non-registered account to your TFSA? You need to ensure there are no unrealized capital gains or losses. Once you transfer in-kind to a TFSA, it’s considered a deemed disposition for tax purposes; however, there’s a catch, unrealized gains are realized immediately upon disposition, but unrealized losses are not claimed. You should never ever transfer an investment in a loss position to your TFSA. What you should do is sell the security in your non-registered account so you can claim the loss, transfer the cash into your TFSA, then wait at least thirty days before repurchasing so you avert prompting a superficial loss.

    Non-qualified Investments

    While most investments can be help in your TFSA, there are some that are considered non-qualified. The non-qualified investments are:

    • Any personal debt in your name;
    • Any debt or share of a corporation in that you hold a significant interest;
    • Any debt or share of a corporation that you don’t deal with at arm’s length.

    Any time you have a non-qualified investment in your TFSA, there is a one-time tax equal to 50% of the fair market value at the time it’s acquired or became non-qualified.

    Foreign Withholding Tax

    If you have foreign investments and receive dividends, they’ll be subject to a non-resident withholding tax. Usually on your foreign investments in non-registered accounts you can claim the foreign dividend tax credit against that foreign tax withheld; however, that is not the case with TFSAs.

    Non-resident contributions

    If you are considered a non-resident and you make a contribution to your TFSA, you are taxed at a rate of 1% per month on said contributions. This generally applies to someone who is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. Unlike RRSPs, there is no tax treaty between Canada and the United States that recognizes the TFSA as an exempt foreign trust. As far as the Internal Revenue Service is concerned, you need to disclose and pay tax on income generated by your TFSA. If you are a US citizen, you’re better off keeping your investments in an RRSP or non-registered accounts rather than a TFSA.

    Social Security Benefits

    Your TFSA withdrawals are not considered taxable income. As such, and a major advantage, is that withdrawals won’t count against you for the purpose of determining your social security benefits, such as Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which get clawed back based on your income level for the tax year.

    Loan Interest Tax-deductibility

    Any time you borrow money to invest in a non-registered investment account, the interest is tax deductible. However, this doesn’t apply with your TFSA or any other registered accounts. Of course, this makes total sense, as with TFSAs there are no tax ramifications for contributions or withdrawals, so you shouldn’t be able to claim a deduction for the interest paid. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Retroactive Contribution Room

    The beauty of the TFSA is that you have accumulated contribution room that depends on how long you’ve been a Canadian resident, and not when you first opened your TFSA. If you open your TFSA today, you still have contribution room retroactive back to when TFSAs were first introduced in 2009, as long as you were 18 or older at the time. If you weren’t 18 in 2009, then you have no accumulated contribution room for those years. If you turned 18 in 2013, then you would have no accumulated contribution room for 2009 to 2012.

    The TFSA is an excellent investment vehicle for all Canadians. As the contribution limit continues to accumulate, and, hopefully, the government increases the yearly amount, in the future, you’ll need to ensure you know everything about your TFSA.

    Your Passion as a Business? Some Things to Contemplate First

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    Working from home on something you love while making enough money to thrive is many peoples’ dream. A freelance career is how many go for this ideal, and though the rewards can be grand, they can’t deny how much effort is really required building that thriving business.

    Making a business or career out of your passion, can create a whole set of problems. You need to do a meaningful mind shift; however, you probably won’t recognize that when first starting out. Below are some things to contemplate before taking that leap.

    It’s a Serious Business

    You must treat your freelance career as a serious business because in the end how talented you are doesn’t matter. You may be very talented and that will earn you lots of money, however, the everyday concerns of running your business are the building blocks to your success. Paperwork, government filings, invoicing, customer relations, time management, and more are just some of the less exciting aspects of the freelance life, but it’s necessary to get those right if you want to build a solid business, and not just follow a hobby.

    Self-discipline

    Are you working in a creative field? Your passion may involve following pipe dreams and having the ability to make mistakes. However, as a business you need to keep a tight focus on what acutally makes your business run. Of course, you should nourish your creativity when you can, but don’t overlook the fact that you need to please your clients, produce work that sells, and do so as cost effectively as you can, instead of letting your creativity run too wild.

    Prioritize Productivity

    Maintaining a firm hold on your productivity is a major part of self-discipline. You’re going to have days where you’re just not at peak performance, and when creating something useful is just too hard. You’ve seen and heard the clichés; however, few freelancers can simply afford to pack up and head to the beach when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. It’s not just about meeting deadlines, if you don’t put in the hours, then the money is coming either. At those times that your just not brimming with creativity, what will you do to be more productive?

    Workflow

    It is very important to setup a beneficial and constant workflow, which means creating systems for what you do. Your talent and instinct won’t get you through your working day. You need to have a framework to ensure you meet deadlines and produce good work, even when you’re not running at your best.

    Maintaining Passion

    Can you keep the passion no matter what? Many freelancers fail to foresee the passion going away once they turn it into a business, as that may just kill the enjoyment you got from it. Your passion could start to feel like a chore, even if it started out as relaxing and rewarding hobby. When the pressure mounts, or the lean times come, are you still going to be as excited and assured in your skills? When you lose your pastime as your outlet, is there something else that can take its place? A crappy work-life balance is a prevalent issue amongst freelancers, and can be a big problem if you combine your hobby and business.

    Don’t think that this is an argument against taking the freelancer path, quite the contrary. Most freelancers who started their own business would not want to go back to the nine-to-five grind, however, you need to begin with your eyes wide open. You can have a rewarding business if you have the talent, desire, and an enterprising mindset. Nonetheless, you must acknowledge that passion alone is never enough.

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