Do I have A Business?

By Randall Orser | Small Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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Number Crunchers® Financial Services

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