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Renovating the Office? Here are Five Things to Think About

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Is your small business office getting tired? It may be a time for a change. Maybe you need to create space for new employees, or maybe it just needs an update look. Perhaps you’re just getting started and want your office to reflect your vision. Here are five things to consider before hitting the sledge.

The Strength of the New Design

While blending in and being part of the neighbourhood can be good, but not for your office. Your clients need to be able to find you, so make it as easy as pie. Your design should be readily distinguishable, matching your current branding, so people know it right away. For a lot of businesses, that seems to epitomize a large sign. That can be okay in some circumstances, however, you should be afraid to experiment.

There is still value into fitting into the neighbourhood and surrounding area. If you stick out like a sore thumb, you seem too out of place and that you don’t really belong. While it can be a headache to not clash with fitting in and standing out, it may be worth thinking about that.

Energy Efficiency

Today being energy efficient is a big thing, and can work in your favour business wise. You’re just starting out, so you may not have tons of capital, so if you can save on utilities, then great, and energy consumption is a good place to begin.

It isn’t just the wiring you need to check. If you’re in a colder clime, then ensuring the insulation is sufficient can save you on the heating costs. Upgrading your windows is a good way to keep the heat in and your costs down. Check into your local utilities energy credits or rebates for upgrading your home/office to become more energy efficient.

Focus on the Most Important Change

More than likely, you won’t be able to afford all the changes you wish to make, and that’s okay. You need to focus your resources on the most important areas first. Is there anything your new office just can’t do without?

Analyze your office space. Do you really need to improve it? Will it do for now. Or does it affect company productivity? Is it bleak and putting off to customers? Check your budget, and see where improvements would give you the biggest bang.

The People Affected

You’re not alone in your business, nor is the space just for your workforce. You have to think about your customers and your neighbours. While you may think painting the building yellow is a great idea, that may annoy your neighbours, which could affect deals down the road, and there could be legal considerations (bylaws are the first thing that comes to mind).

You need to have a chat with those involved. Are there any changes your employees may want? They would know what would work for them productivity wise. Of course, you need to go over the renovation plans with them, and how you’re going to deal with any disruptions. Consult your lawyers and see what laws you need to review. You also want to warn your neighbours about any disruptions that the renovation may cause.

Costs

Renovations don’t come cheap, and cutting corners is never a good idea. The old cliché holds true ‘you get what you pay for’, and a well-designed office will pay for itself eventually. Your bookkeeper or accountant should be able to help you develop a budget to get what you want, and keep those costs under control.

Are you doing the work yourself? If you find you need some piece of equipment, rent it instead of buying it as you probably won’t use it again. Check in your network for a dependable contractor, and maybe you can work out a deal for reduced costs such as promising future work or referring them to others.

Your office renovations can be a thrilling affair for your small business, however, it should be mildly. Rushing into a renovation and without care, could make the office worse than it was before. Take your time. This is your office you’re creating, so ensure it changes into what fits your vision and needs.


Have You Made Donations Yet This Year? 

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes

As we’re nearing the end of 2017, it’s a good time to look at your potential deductions for the tax year. Whether you’re someone who donates throughout the year, or just in one lump sum. It’s a good idea to see how much you’ve donated so far, this year, and should you top it up.  You may also be doing a bit of cleaning out this fall and getting rid of things, so may be a good time to think about donating something in kind to your favourite charity. Now is definitely the time to look at what you can contribute to make the most of your tax deduction.

Your donations can consist of monies or gifts to registered charities, and political parties, too. You can look up on Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)’s website to see if the charity you wish to donate to is registered on the Charities Listing page. Ensure the charity is registered here before you give any of your money; this includes charities of foreign countries. Qualified donees are:

  • registered charities;
  • registered Canadian amateur athletic associations;
  • registered national arts service organizations;
  • registered housing corporations resident in Canada set up only to provide low-cost housing for the aged;
  • registered municipalities in Canada;
  • registered municipal or public bodies performing a function of government in Canada;
  • the United Nations and its agencies;
  • registered universities outside Canada that are prescribed to be universities the student body of which ordinarily includes students from Canada;
  • Her Majesty in Right of Canada, a province, or a territory; and
  • before June 23, 2015, registered foreign charitable organizations to which Her Majesty in Right of Canada has made a gift. For gifts made on or after June 23, 2015, registered foreign charities (which now include foreign charitable foundations) to which Her Majesty in Right of Canada has made a gift.

What is the eligible amount of my gift?

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

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

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

Look at all the donations you have given this year, do they add up to $200 or more? If not, you want to top that up to over $200 as you get a bigger credit for the amounts over $200. Currently, you get 15% tax credit on donations up to $200, and 29% on any amounts over that. For example, you give $750 to charity, you get $30 on the first $200 and $159.50 on the rest for a total of $189.50.

Generally, you can claim on line 340, all or part of these donations, up to a limit of 75% of your net income (line 236). As an exception, gifts of capital property are limited to 100% of your net income. Also, for the year a person dies and the year before, the 75% limit is extended to 100% of the person's net income.

Of course, as always, keep your copies in case CRA asks for them; usually, if you donate quite a bit of your income they’ll check.

First-time donor’s super credit

The First-time donor's super credit (FDSC) supplements the value of the charitable donations tax credit (CDTC) by 25% on donations made after March 20, 2013, by a first-time donor.

For the purpose of the FDSC, you will be considered a first-time donor if neither you nor your spouse or common-law partner (if you have one) have claimed and been allowed a charitable donations tax credit for any year after 2007.

The FDSC applies to a gift of money made after March 20, 2013, up to a maximum of $1,000, in respect of only one taxation year from 2013 to 2017.

If you have a spouse or common-law partner, you can share the claim for the FDSC, but the total combined donations claimed cannot be more than $1,000.

Example

An eligible first-time donor claims $700 of charitable donations in 2016, of which $300 are donations of money. The charitable donations tax credit (CDTC) and the first-time donor's super credit (FDSC) would be calculated as follows:

  • On the first $200 of charitable donations claimed, the CDTC is ($200 x 15%) = $30.
  • On the donations claimed in excess of $200, the CDTC is [($700 − $200) x 29%] = $145.
  • On the donations that are gifts of money, the FDSC is ($300 x 25%) = $75.
  • The total of the CDTC and FDSC is $250.

You do not have to claim all of the donations you made this year on your current year return. It may be more beneficial to carry them forward and claim them on your return for any of the next five years, or over the next ten years for a gift of ecologically sensitive land made after February 10, 2014.

Donating to charity is a worthwhile effort as you are able to help people, feel good about yourself, and get a tax deduction. As with anything in life, it’s a good idea to plan, and track what you’re donating for the year, so as to maximize your tax benefit the most. Check here for some samples of official donation receipts.


Before You Rent Out That Mortgage Helper, here are Some Tips

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’ve been able to buy that new home you want, and it came with an income suite, which can be financially fruitful. To be a good property manager, you should manage your rental as you would a business, which means you need to be an able planner and keep good records (especially for the taxman). For a first-time landlord, renting out your house to an outsider can be quite the challenge. The following four items are something you should know before renting out that mortgage helper.

Keep Your Property Presentable

You must keep up the property in a tidy manner, no one wants to rent a messy place. You may also get a higher rent if you maintain the property, and keep it looking nice. Your renters will feel more confidence that you are a professional landlord when the residence is maintained. If something is in need of repair, fix it, clean up the floors and walls and keep up the landscaping; this makes your rental much more attractive to potential tenants.

Rental properties will need periodic repairs. If you’re not handy yourself, it is a good idea to find a local handyman you can rely on when needed. Your job as a landlord will be much easier if you can find reliable professionals you can call on when needed. Yes, it’s going to cost you money to maintain the property, however, it could cost you more in lost tenants. Plus, you get to write off minor repairs off the rental income.

Always Get it in Writing

That old adage is never truer than when being a landlord. You need to have a tenancy agreement, though there is no standard agreement you must use. You can look at one of those online law documents services and grab one from there, or chat with a lawyer that specializes in rentals. If you decide to just create your own, it is advisable to have a lawyer check it over for its legality.

You should include the following details in any tenancy agreement:

· Start and end date of the rental term

· Security deposit amount

· Monthly rental amount

· The date of the month the rent is due

· Acceptable methods of payment

o How rent should be paid

· If you are allowing direct payments into your bank account, you need to note on the form your bank details.

· The number of keys your giving the tenant

· Who’s responsible for utilities and maintenance

· Any additional fees and disclosures

Depending on your particular circumstances, you may want to incorporate other terms you deem appropriate.

Some other forms to include:

· Pre-tenancy application form

· Security deposit receipt form

It may be a good idea to contact a property law specialist to help create the tenancy agreement to your particular needs. The lawyer will be over legal disclosure requirements and explain how insurance can curb your liability.

Acquiring Great Tenants

The beginning of a successful landlord-tenant relationship is to get the right tenants. To find financially suitable applicants for your property seek the help of a credit check agency. After that, there are tools that can help you locate good tenants. Look for a local property investment association, as this can be a great resource for networking with other landlords. You’ll be able to get tips, and share yours, that you and they have learned over the years.

The Taxman Cometh

You need to include rental income on your tax return, using form T776 Statement of Real Estate Rentals. You must keep accurate records of your rental income and expenses each year. These records help you figure out your net profit for the year. The tax you pay will depend on the net income from the rental; any losses will be deducted from your other income and if you have no other income will be carried forward to the next year. Whether a long-term or short-term rental, most rental receipts are considered income for tax purposes.

If your mortgage helper is for a parent, grandparent, or sibling, they are considered a ‘related person’. You may still have to report the income as rental income, however, if you’re renting below fair market value, you won’t be able to write-off any losses, and will have to report the income differently.

Airbnb is a big thing now, and you need to realize if you’re doing this regularly, then you need to claim it as rental income. You get the same expenses as if it was a long-term rental, plus you can write off bedding and towels that you use exclusively for this rental, and if you supply soap, etc. too. If you supply meals, then the income may be considered business income and not rental income.

Your mortgage helper can definitely help pay for the mortgage and make your dream home more affordable. With experience, managing the rental side does get easier. Finding a good property manager, lawyer and tax preparer can help you manage the details.

Are you considered Common-law for Tax Purposes?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

You and a significant other have decided to take a leap and moved into together; however, you didn’t get married. You may be considered common-law for tax purposes after living together for a certain length of time, whether, you believe so or not. And, you’d better not lie about living together, as this could catch up to you and cost you $1000s in taxes, fines, etc.

What is a Common-law Partner?

This applies to a person who is not your spouse, with whom you are living in a conjugal relationship, and to whom at least one of the following situations applies. He or she:

  1. has been living with you in a conjugal relationship, and this current relationship has lasted at least 12 continuous months;
    1. In this definition, 12 continuous months includes any period you were separated for less than 90 days because of a breakdown in the relationship.
  2. is the parent of your child by birth or adoption; or
  3. has custody and control of your child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support.

If the 90-day period includes the end of the tax year (December 31st), you may want to wait until 90 days have elapsed before filing your return, to avoid confusion and possibly having to submit a request for a change to your return.

If you were separated because of an involuntary separation, you are still considered to have a spouse or common-law partner if you were separated involuntarily. An involuntary separation could happen when one spouse or common-law partner is away for work, school, health reasons, or incarcerated.

And, these rules apply for same-sex couples, too.

What do I do Now that I’m Considered Living Common-law?

The first thing you should do is inform Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in one of these ways:

  • log in to MyBenefits CRA or MyCRA on CRA’s mobile apps page
    • select “Manage profile details” or "Personal information" then “Marital status”
  • log in to My Account
    • select “Personal information” then “Change my marital status”
  • call the CRA at 1-800-387-1193
  • fill out Form RC65, Marital Status Change, and send it to the CRA

What Changes on My Taxes When I File Common-law?

The benefits you’ve been receiving, such as the GST/HST credit, or Canada Child Benefit (CCB), will be affected by being common-law. As a single person, you may have qualified for the GST/HST credit; however, as a common-law couple you may not. As a couple, CRA combines your income, so you need to have less than $45,000 combined family income to qualify.

The same for the Canada Child Benefit, as a couple the more your combined family income is the less benefit you get. The CCB decreases to zero around $150,000 in combined family income.

There is a plus side to being common-law. You can combine deductions for medical and donations under one spouse. If you don’t have enough medical to qualify individually, you may as a couple. For donations, you only get 15% on $200 in donations, however, you get 29% on the amount over $200. For example, you each have $175 in donations, individually you get 15% of that or $26.25; combined you’d have $350, you get $30 on the first $200 and $43.50 on the other $150 for a combined deduction of $73.50 (that’s almost 3 times as much).

Pension splitting is another area where you can save taxes when living common-law. If one person has a lower income (doesn’t have to be pension), and the other person has a higher income (must be pension based), then they can split the income to lower their tax bill.

There is also the spousal credit which is equivalent to the Basic Personal Exemption. If the spouse has no income then you get the full amount, otherwise, it decreases based on how much the other spouse makes.

If one spouse is going to school then the higher income spouse can claim a tuition/education transfer of up to $5000. And, the higher income spouse can claim the child care expenses if the spouse going to school has no income.

When you’re in a relationship, and you move in together, even without getting married, CRA will consider you common-law after 12 consecutive months. You need to inform CRA once you have lived together 12 consecutive months as any credits you are getting now will change once you are common-law. And, CRA will make you pay back any overpayments.

Tune-up Your Business with These Growth Hacks

By Randall Orser | Small Business

If you’re not growing then you’re dying, whether or not your business is online or on ground. The term ‘adapt or die’ has never been more prevalent than it has now. Doing the same things year over year in the hopes of being profitable won’t happen; you need to take decisive actions to grow your revenue. Your competition grows at an ever-increasing rate, so now is the time to get more aggressive in growing your company. If you want your year to be the best yet, your top focus needs to be on growth. The ten tips below used in your growth strategy will help your revenues soar.

Networking

You can start networking more, looking at those groups that could likely send you some business. Look for those groups that have members that match your ideal client, or have access to that ideal client. What other industries are connected to your business? You may find clients there, or really good referral sources. The more people you can expose your business to the better, however, make sure it’s the right ones.

Marketing Tools

What marketing tools are working now? Facebook or Twitter may be working now, however, you may want to look at other customer engagement ideas such as live streaming or audio broadcasts. Where is your audience now? That is probably where you should be. There’s many different ways to connect with customers, and you need to be willing to try what resonates with them.

Inventory Collection

Is your inventory getting stale? Do you have items that rarely sell? May be time to get rid of that old inventory. What are the trends happening in your market sector? What could you incorporate into your inventory? Look at finding global suppliers to explore new products, or modifying the ones you already sell.

SEO

What’s your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy? Do you have one? Could be time to revisit now. SEO is a lot different than just a couple of years ago, however, you should be looking at it. Figure out if there’s any new keywords you should be using, develop a blogging strategy using those keywords. If you’re on YouTube, then you need an SEO plan for that too. Look at your competitors, and see what keywords they’re using. SEO is an ongoing process, so make this the year you focus on ranking higher on Google; maybe look at Bing too.

Holiday Marketing

What’s your holiday marketing strategy for this year? Are you planning one? You should be planning well before the actual holiday; don’t think about your Valentine’s marketing at the beginning of February. Your Summer sales push should be created well before the hot weather starts. Believe it or not, but your Christmas marketing strategies should be started in July or August. Commit to becoming a masterful marketer this year by developing your seasonal strategies well ahead.

Beat Your Sales Each Month

Pledge to beat your prior month’s sales every month. What contributed to that growth? Whatever that was, do everything you can to beat those sales figures. That could be anything from boosting your presence on social media, to growing your blogging, to commenting on blogs related to your market, or being helpful on forums where your ideal client resides.

Email Marketing

What are you doing for email marketing now? It’s probably time to increase those efforts. Shoot to grow your subscriber list by at least ten percent each month. If you have an email newsletter, promote that more, add curated content to boost engagement rates, and enhance your visuals with video and custom brand marketing images. Have your existing subscribers share your email newsletter with their social networks for increased enrollment of new subscribers.

Client Acquisition Strategy

Where does your ideal client hang out online? Wherever that is, that’s where you should be building a presence. Where does your client go to network or hang out? Look at offline occasions to connect with your ideal client, and ensure to actively engage at events where those ideal clients are. Sales don’t happen by magic; a client acquisition strategy can make it seem so though.

Feedback

Feedback is very important from your customers, and one way is to offer an anonymous survey. What do they like about your business? What do they think you can do better? Are the most common questions to ask. Your customers may just surprise you with their insightful comments, and you could uncover some great business-building ideas too. Of course, you’d better be ready for some brutal honesty.

Multiple Streams of Income

How many streams of income do you have now? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have 5 to 7 of them. Rather than depending on your existing income streams, maybe offer a course on Udemy, sell your products, or new products, on Gumroad or Amazon. You have a good chance of increasing your profits continuously, if you are agreeable to getting creative in your approach to revenue generation.

Business growth is a constant battle, and takes careful planning. Those sales aren’t going to magically appear no matter how much you wish. If you want a better balance sheet when 2018 rolls around, you need to be proactive. The above ten tips should be incorporated into your growth initiative to ensure your business grows bigger, and the profits increase.

Why You Need to Think About CRA’s Online Services? 

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Personal Income Tax

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has joined the 21st Century when it comes to giving you access to your tax information online. You can get your notices of assessment, RRSP contribution limit, and more via their My Account and Online Mail, and they even have an app called MyCRA. These allow easy access, and faster access than snail mail, to your tax information that CRA has for you.

Before we get into why you should use these services, let’s give a quick overview.

My Account

My Account allows you to track your refund, view or change your return, check your benefit and credit payments, view your RRSP limit, set up direct deposit, receive online mail, and so much more. My Account is a secure portal. This is for your personal taxes, and not for business accounts, such as GST/HST.

My Business Account

My Business Account is a secure online portal that provides an opportunity to interact electronically with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on various business accounts. Business accounts include GST/HST (except for GST/HST accounts administered by Revenu Québec), payroll, corporation income taxes, excise taxes, excise duties, and more.

Online Mail

Online mail is a simple to use service that allows individuals to receive most of their mail, like their notice of assessment or benefit notices, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly in My Account.

MyCRA App

MyCRA is a mobile app for individual taxpayers where you can securely view and update key portions of your tax and personal information.

For step-by-step instructions on setting up your CRA user ID and password, go to Registration process to access the CRA login services.

All of the above are:

  • Convenient – It is available 21 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Easy to use – After registering, simply log in with your CRA user ID and password.
  • Fast – Information is up-to-the-minute and transactions are processed immediately.
  • Secure – The CRA user ID and password are just part of the security.

It is possible to see information in My Account before you receive the official document from the CRA. For example, if the CRA reassessed your return, you will see details of the reassessment in My Account before you receive your notice of reassessment in the mail. This is because the most up-to-date information is displayed immediately in My Account, while the notice goes through several manual processes before you receive it by mail.

Correspondence that you can receive electronically

Some examples of correspondence currently available through online services include:

  • notices of assessment (NOA)
  • notices of reassessment (NORA)
  • benefit notices and slips
  • T1 adjustment notices
  • instalment reminders and payments made
  • income tax and benefit return status
  • tax-free savings account and registered retirement savings plan contribution limits
  • buy-back amounts for the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan
  • GST/HST return status
  • Account balances
  • And more…

The above are just some of the services that are currently available, and CRA is looking at adding more all the time. CRA finally wants you to be able to access this information electronically rather than get it in the mail.

Let’s face it mail theft is on the rise and will continue to do so as long as we have those community mailboxes; those mailboxes are not secured in any fashion. Online services allow you to have access to your tax information at any time, and you can authorize others to access it on your behalf, such as your tax preparer. This allows them access to your notices of assessment, T-slips, etc., allowing you to relax as to whether or not you got them. It also allows you to check to see if you didn’t get a T4, or other slip before you do your taxes.

I’m am going to suggest to all my clients this year to sign up for My Account, Online Mail and MyCRA App, it’s just the right thing to do.

Speed Up Your Entrepreneurial Adventure 

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Your mindset is important when being an entrepreneur, and you should be working on it regularly. Want to enjoy long-term success as an entrepreneur? You’ll need to look at learning as something you want to do not just something you have to do; that goes for your thought processes too. Assimilate the following growth tips into your daily routine, and improve the quality of your entrepreneurship journey.

Your Thoughts Affect the Journey

The actions you take on your entrepreneurial journal are definitely affected by your thinking. Negative thoughts, such as you’ll never achieve your dream, will affect your actions and cause you to fail. Welcome the many learning opportunities that come your way, and let your recently discovered positive attitude push you towards your dreams. Though sometimes a problem is just a problem and it just needs to be solved.

Who You are Matters

The kind of entrepreneur you’ll become hinges on who you are as a person, it will have a powerful impression. Deal with others in a trustworthy and honest manner, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the same. Surround yourself with principled people, and you’ll build a better business with a strong moral foundation. Figure out and focus on your core values, and incorporate those into your business, and how they can work with your passion.

Ten Year Overnight Sensation

A successful business doesn’t happen overnight, and can take years; hence the expression, ‘the ten-year overnight sensation’. You could struggle for years before even seeing a return on your time investment. Your time investment must be seen as the building blocks for creating a brighter future. Look at your entrepreneurial struggles as an investment in your future, and your mindset changes. Those tough times are now opportunities to grow.

Don’t Judge

You shouldn’t judge your competitors for having success you haven’t obtained yet. Instead, look to them for ideas of what works and what doesn’t in the business your building. Approach your competitors like research subjects and do thorough research on everything from their networking skills to their digital marketing strategies. Understanding how your competitors became successful, the better equipped you are to fuel your fire.

Your business-building adventure will be much more enjoyable if you remember these tips for entrepreneurs. Always be working on increasing your knowledge, and find those motivational tips that work for you. Keep going and pursue your passion even in those tough times. Don’t give up you’ll be happier in the end, and have respect for yourself for following your dreams.

Is that Letter from CRA Legit?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Comes this time of year when you, the Canadian taxpayer, start to receive love letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting information or informing you of your tax debt if you hadn’t paid it on April 30th. Unfortunately, in this day and age of rampant scams, email and otherwise, you need to be diligent and don’t just answer that email or caller, or even that letter you received supposedly from CRA.

Email, Telephone, Letter Scams

CRA does NOT use email to contact individual taxpayers. The CRA has an automatic email system that sends out an email letting you know that you have Online Mail. This is the only time they will send you an email. The CRA will never use aggressive language or tone, ask for prepaid credit cards, threaten arrest or to send police in any correspondence. A CRA email notification will only advise you that you have correspondence to view in My Account. It will never ask for you to confirm information or click on a link. If you’re unsure, log into My Account and see if you have new mail to read.

The other email, and now a text, that goes around is a fake e-Interac transfer, CRA will never send you money via this method. It will be either a cheque, or direct deposit, which you must setup.

Fake letters are still going around, and they’re getting much better at it too. Someone showed me a letter he got from CRA, and this letter was so good it would’ve fooled me. It had their name, address, and it all looked very real. The letter even and a CRA number on it with 1-800-959, which many of their numbers start with. It had a balance owing, which made this person feel something wasn’t quite right; he usually gets refunds. This letter had the right language, and looked very legit. Fortunately, he called the CRA and found out, of course, it was fake.

Know how to recognize a scam

There are many fraud types, including new ones invented daily.

You should be vigilant when you receive, either by telephone, mail, text message or email, a fraudulent communication that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number.

These scams may insist that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or a benefit payment. Cases of fraudulent communication could also involve threatening or coercive language to scare individuals into paying fictitious debt to the CRA. Other communications urge taxpayers to visit a fake CRA website where the taxpayer is then asked to verify their identity by entering personal information. These are scams and taxpayers should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.

To identify communications not from the CRA, be aware of these guidelines.

If you receive a call saying you owe money to the CRA, you can call us or check My Account to be sure.

If you have signed up for online mail (available through My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client), the CRA will do the following:

  • send a registration confirmation email to the address you provided for online mail service for an individual or a business; and
  • send an email to the address you provided to notify you when new online mail is available to view in the CRA's secure online services portal.

The CRA will not do the following:

  • send email with a link and ask you to divulge personal or financial information;
  • ask for personal information of any kind by email or text message.
  • request payments by prepaid credit cards.
  • give taxpayer information to another person, unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • leave personal information on an answering machine.

Exception:

If you call the CRA to request a form or a link for specific information, a CRA agent will forward the information you are requesting to your email during the telephone call. This is the only circumstance in which the CRA will send an email containing links.

Caller ID is a useful function. However, the information displayed can be altered by criminals. Never use only the displayed information to confirm the identity of the caller whether it be an individual, a company or a government entity.

The old cliché holds true, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What’s the Best Way to Get Away from these Scams?

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Did I sign up to receive online mail through My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client?
  • Did I provide my email address on my income tax and benefit return to receive mail online?
  • Am I expecting more money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not provide in my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

If you get a letter, or email from CRA, you do need to check its validity with CRA itself. Give them a call at their main numbers 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

The best way to alleviate any issues is to sign up for My Account, and then sign up for Online Mail.

My Account is a secure portal that lets you view your personal income tax and benefit information and manage your tax affairs online.

My Account is:

  • Convenient – It is available 21 hours a day, 7 days a week (see Hours of service).
  • Easy to use – After registering, simply log in with your CRA user ID and password.
  • Fast – Information is up-to-the-minute and transactions are processed immediately.
  • Secure – The CRA user ID and password are just part of the security.

You can also log in with a Sign-in Partner. This option lets you log in with a user ID and password that you may already have, such as for online banking.

Online mail is a simple to use service that allows individuals to receive most of their mail, like their notice of assessment or benefit notices, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly in My Account.

When you sign up for online mail, the CRA will send you an email letting you know when you have new mail to view in My Account. Once you are signed up for online mail, you will go paperless since your correspondence will no longer be printed and mailed. Don’t worry - if your bank or anyone else needs a paper copy, all you need to do is log in to My Account and print or download a copy.

You will stop getting any physical mail, and never have to worry about mail theft from those crappy community mailboxes, or fake letters as you’ll know they’re fake as you don’t get physical mail from CRA anymore.

Be diligent with any correspondence you get from CRA, and always check with CRA when you get such correspondence. Signing up for My Account and Online Mail will definitely get you feeling more secure about not getting scams in the future.

If you do have concerns about correspondence from the CRA, call them at 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

Thinking of Giving up on Your Entrepreneurial Dreams? 

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You had a lightbulb moment, came up with a great idea, figured out your target market and thought entrepreneurship was the right path. You’ve been following your passion; however, you’ve started questioning that choice and even question being an entrepreneur. Staying motivated as an entrepreneur is difficult as success is usually not immediate, and acclaim empty. Are you ready to call it quits as an entrepreneur? Well, here are five reasons not to give up on that dream. You may even begin to believe your dream is worth following, and it’s much too early to give up now.

Opportunity Hunter

You can definitely improve your entrepreneur progress by becoming an opportunity hunter. Don’t get overwhelmed by your business problems, instead look at them for the opportunities that could be there. Prepare your brain to centre on looking for the opportunities others miss; your business will grow by leaps and bounds.

“Look at Me Now” Attitude

You may be on an emotional low right now, and thinking of shuttering your entrepreneurial dream, however, wouldn’t you rather show your doubters just how wrong they were. Make the naysayers in your life feel bad as you’re the owner of a successful business. Embrace a “look at me now” attitude and push aside your troublesome doubts.

Change is Good

Your chances of success as an entrepreneur when you’re feeling down can suffer. Changes in your daily behavior that keep moving you forward. Apathy is the most destructive belief to your entrepreneurial prosperity. Modify your marketing strategy. Switch to a new social media platform you’ve not used before to make connections. Grow your personal brand as an entrepreneur by upping your visual marketing efforts. Mixing up the status quo can refresh your motivation and push to achieve your entrepreneurial dreams.

Leap of Faith

Remember that for you to achieve your business goals frequently requires a leap of faith towards your future. Picture yourself standing at the front of a zip-line that goes across a deep mountainous gorge, and your entrepreneurial goals await you at the other end of that zip-line. Trust yourself and your capacity to work hard towards your passion. Take a deep breath, trust your safety-net, and take that leap towards fulfilling your dreams.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Entrepreneurs today believe out-hustling their competition and working harder than anyone on their team is needed. That is not always true. Working smarter than the competition is the answer, not harder. How do you work smarter and not harder as an entrepreneur? You can start by taking care of yourself and refresh your energy stores. Take that day off and indulge yourself with some peace and quiet. Go to a deserted beach, or a long walk or hike on an isolated trail. Do whatever it takes to loosen up and replenish your spirit. You’ll become a getter entrepreneur when your emotional batteries aren’t running on empty.

When you feel your enthusiasm waning, think about these five reasons to carry on. Think about why you became an entrepreneur in the first place, focus on that and salvage your passion. Entrepreneurship takes work; however, the benefits are worth pushing past that declining motivation. Your dreams are worth pursuing!

Can I Turn My Holiday Trip into a Write-off? 

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Summer is the time when many people take holidays with family and friends. For business people, there’s always that question, ‘can I write this trip off?’ The answer, as it is with any tax question, is ‘depends’. There are factors to consider before you may be able to write that trip off. Is it truly a legitimate business trip? Does it just happen to coincide with a family trip? Who’s going on the trip? Are your staff going too?

Is It Truly a Legitimate Business Trip?

This is the question. Are you taking that trip to France to seek potential business or see a new supplier? Or, is it really your anniversary present to your spouse? If the trip is business, and you just coordinated it to work with your anniversary, that’s okay. As long as the main purpose of the trip is business, you can write off most of the trip.

How much can you write off? For travel expenses, you can deduct air travel, accommodations, car rentals and its gas, taxis or public transit fares, food (only 50% or 100% if you’re getting reimbursed from a client), and entertainment you take a client to, such as concert/theatre tickets or sporting events. For such expenses, you cannot use the portion that would be for your spouse or children, unless your spouse or your children work for your company.

Does your business trip include days where you’re not conducting any business? If yes, then you can only write off the days where you’re conducting business; it doesn’t have to be a full day of business though, as long as it’s more than 2 hours that’s business. Your spouse should be attending these meetings too, or conducting her how business meetings; it’s a stretch but the spouses of all those you’re meeting with your wife could be considered business.

For example, you go on a trip to Europe to conduct business, taking your spouse and children along; your spouse works with you in the business, not the children. The trip lasts 18 days, and of that time you can determine that 8 days were actually for business, the other 10 days were personal. You have to take your travel expenses and claim 8/18th of those expenses. The amounts presented here were converted into Canadian dollars.

Air Travel (you and spouse) $2,150

Transportation charges $ 765

Hotel (you and spouse) $5,400

Total $6,165

Deductible portion 8/18 $2,740

Meals / Entertainment (50%) $1,230

Total Travel Expenses $3,970

We kept meals and entertainment separate as only the meals where you conduct business are allowed. And, some meals and entertainment may have happened on a non-business day as you took a client out to the theatre or dinner.

Working your business schedule around holiday time is not a bad idea, and if you travel a lot for business, it completely makes sense to have family holidays at the same time. If you’re going to Europe you may as well make the best of it.