Self-employed? The 5 New Year’s Resolutions You Need to Keep

(So you don’t pay more tax than you have to)

By Alex Young, Senior Account Manager

 

Self-employed professional

Life is busy as a self-employed business owner or professional, we get it. But since nobody likes to miss opportunities for tax savings, here are the top 5 tax planning resolutions for 2015 that can help reduce your tax bill.

1)     One word, RECEIPTS.

Keep them. Throw them in a shoebox if you have to. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) states that receipts MUST accompany claimed expenses. It might make sense to you that a $100 charge to Esso on your Visa statement is for fuel but CRA doesn’t know if it was for lotto tickets, food or cigarettes.

2)     Write on every receipt.

Do a simple handwritten note about what was the item for, what client and/or matter it relates to, and who was there. This is especially a good idea for claiming meals and entertainment.

And remember: Be reasonable with what you claim. $30,000 in income usually doesn’t take $5,500 in meals and entertainment to generate. CRA knows this — and these kinds of inflated expenses will often trigger an audit.

3)     Know your PST/GST obligations.

Depending on your industry, you may need to register for PST and/or GST. Make sure you know what (if anything) you need to invoice and pay for, as well as when to remit payments, when to file your return and how to request refunds.

yellow search button the good oneGet info on PST from the Government of BC here: http://bit.ly/1xibb3O

Find out about GST on the CRA website here: http://bit.ly/1C08loB

Still not sure? Ask your professional accountant for advice.

4)  Schedule an oil change.

Yes really. If you have auto expenses you should keep a notebook and trip log in your car, but the easiest way to keep track of your total yearly mileage is by getting an oil change as close to Dec 31st as possible.

5)     Get better at knowing what you can claim.

Make sure you aren’t missing any business expenses or misreporting them. For example, a new driveway is probably not a legitimate home office expense. Neither is the cable portion of your phone/internet/cable bill. However, you can usually claim a portion of your mortgage interest for a home office. Knowing what you’re entitled to and spending a bit of time with your pencil and calculator can maximize your tax return and reduce your accounting fees.

Red Bell the good oneRemember! If you’re self-employed, CRA wants your tax and your GST returns filed by June 15th but taxes are due April 30th.

 

Need help getting organized for tax season? Get a free worksheet here.

Final note: Think about where you’re going in 2015.

Wondering if you should incorporate your business? There is no magic revenue number you have to reach to make that decision; it’s more a matter of your lifestyle, spending habits and goals. If you find you are making more then you need for monthly expenses, then consider incorporating.

Curious about how incorporating your business could make a difference? Read our TaxSense article for a real-life example of one couple’s decision to incorporate.

 

Alex Young of Loren Nancke & Company Alex Young, CPA, CGA, is a Senior Account Manager with Loren Nancke & Company. He is good with numbers and great with people … and has a legendary memory for Homer Simpson trivia. You can reach him at 604-904-3807 in Vancouver, British Columbia.