When should I incorporate? AND Pros and Cons

As a CPA providing bookkeeping services, I often get this question:

When should I incorporate?

Incorporation has Pros and Cons and we’ll step through them here to help you decide.

Pros:

Risk is isolated.

If you do business as a corporation, you limit the risk of loss to the amount of your investment. This is especially important when you are running a high-risk business where your customers or your employees may be injured. Examples include construction & trades businesses, gyms, and personal trainers. Accidents happen. Even if it might not be your fault, you may be sued. If you are, and you don’t have enough insurance, you will be personally liable. Prevent this situation at all costs.

A caveat: In Canada, a corporation doesn’t necessarily protect you against gross negligence or fraud. In those situations, your corporate veil can be “pierced”, and you could be personally liable.

Much clearer data.

If you have a bookkeeper that supports you with financial intelligence, having a corporation can really help. A sole proprietor doesn’t have a balance sheet because personal and business assets and liabilities are all mixed together. Therefore, it’s hard to do analysis, such as Current Ratios, Return on Asset, Return on Equity , Debt to Equity Ratio . It’s even hard to do a Cashflow Analysis, and as you know, in small business, Cash is King.

You might be wondering—do I even need this data? When you are small, you probably don’t need deep analysis and ratios. You can tell how your business is doing by looking at your bank account. As your business grows, it’s important to have keep track ratios as your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and do Cashflow Analysis to help you make decisions to take your business to the next level.

Additional credibility and name protection.

When you have Ltd. or Inc. behind your business name, people tend to trust you more. People believe you are an established business and not operating alone. Also, when you incorporate, you must do a “Name Search“, The name search process helps you find a unique name for your business.  A distinctive name helps you stand out and protects your brand.

Existence despite the owner.

A corporation is its own entity. If something happens to a business owner, the corporation would still exist. A separate entity is especially important if you are older, and want to the business to survive longer than you.

Flexible financing and/or tax planning opportunities.

The shares of the company can be sold to investors to raise money. This may be the only way if you are a high-risk business and bank financing isn’t an option. This is true of many startups. If you are a highly profitable business, the shares of a corporation can be held through a Holding Company, or a Family Trust to take advantage of Income Splitting, a legitimate method of tax avoidance.

If there are so many benefits of incorporation, why don’t more people do it?

Con’s:

Incorporation is more expensive.

Generally, filing a corporate tax return is more expensive than an individual tax return. A corporate return costs $2,000/year or more. A personal return, with business income, may cost you up to $1,000. If your bookkeeper did a good job, your taxes will take less time, and you may see savings at year-end. Beyond the costs of financials, you also have more work. You must file legal documents and keep your Minute Book active and accurate. On the banking side, you will need to open a business bank account and a business credit card, which means more bank charges. Bank charges add up.

It’s more of a hassle.

It’s much easier to be a sole proprietor. The business is you, and you are the business. The bookkeeping is easier, and overall, you don’t have to worry about a corporate entity and the associated paperwork.

Losses cannot be deducted personally.

If you have a new business and you are still losing money, it might be a good idea to not incorporate. When losses happen in a corporation, then only the corporation can claim these losses. A new business typically loses money in the first 2-5 years, so it might be a while before you can use these losses to reduce your tax burden. On the other hand, if you are a sole proprietor, business losses can be claimed against your personal income, and it can be used right away.

Timing

Now that you know about the pros and cons from a bookkeeping point of view, when should you incorporate?

There are no hard and fast rules, but generally, if the Pros start to outweigh the cons, then you should do it. Sometimes, the benefits are there from day 1. For example, if you run a high-risk business, and want to protect yourself, it might be wise to incorporate to get that peace of mind. Of course, you can also purchase enough insurance to achieve the same effect.

Generally, if your business’s net income is near $60,000, you might be fine either way. However, if your income is greater than $60,000, then it might be better to incorporate to take advantage of tax planning opportunities.

Now that you’re armed with the answers to “When Should I Incorporate?”, are you ready to make the right call?

Click here for our free 30-minute consultation to go through whether you should incorporate. 

Bookkeeping Company vs Freelance Bookkeeper

Why should I hire a bookkeeping company instead of a freelance bookkeeper?

Nowadays you can hire freelance contractors to help with almost any aspect of your business, from HR to marketing to maintenance. Freelance bookkeepers abound, and many of them are excellent at what they do. There are, however, certain benefits to working with an outsourced bookkeeping company that can offer you the resources of a team over those of an individual.

Here are five reasons you should consider hiring outsourced bookkeeping services instead of a freelance bookkeeper to manage your company’s accounts.

1. Dealing with work overload

One bookkeeper can easily become overloaded with work, especially around busy times of the year such as year-end tax filing. This can dramatically decrease their response time and also lead to increased stress, which may result in a lower quality of work and less attention paid to critical industry developments (ex: policy changes). A bookkeeping team can spread this workload among themselves to ensure that customer service and quality never suffers.

2. Sharing knowledge and expertise

When a freelance bookkeeper encounters difficulty, he or she can’t simply turn around and ask a colleague for input. The only available options are to: a guess, or b) spend hours searching for the answer. A team can talk through the issue and arrive at a solution more quickly thanks to their combined knowledge, training, and certifications. Most bookkeeping teams are led by a manager whose experience and knowledge alone can save the team hours of research.

3. Covering for vacation and leave

If all of your bookkeeping is tied to a single person, what happens when this person gets sick? Or takes a leave of absence during your busiest time of year? Or goes on vacation when you happen to experience a moment of crisis? If your books are being managed by a bookkeeping team, there will always be somebody else able to step in and ensure that there is no interruption to your workflow.

4. Covering for accidents and emergencies

Forget vacations. What happens if, God forbid, your freelance bookkeeper falls seriously ill or is accidentally injured or killed? If all of your accounting information is stored with this individual, you’ll have a hard time retrieving it. A bookkeeping team has contingency plans in place so that you’re protected if the unfortunate happens. Another representative in the company will take over management of your accounts so that your business can continue uninterrupted.

5. Maintaining accountability

A freelancer is his or her own supervisor, meaning your freelance bookkeeper has to hold him/herself accountable to the goals and deadlines you’ve agreed upon. It’s hard, and at times you might find yourself having to manage your bookkeeper. A bookkeeping team will have management and review systems (ex: performance reviews) in place to ensure that everyone on their team is held accountable.

Now you know the difference, but what should you ask before choosing a bookkeeper?

You are in luck!

We’ve created a FREE extended guide called “5 Things to Ask Before Choosing Your Bookkeeper – And The Responses They Should Give You.”

We’ve shared insights that will help you understand how bookkeepers operate, bill, and deliver results. Most importantly, the guide details exactly what a good bookkeeper should tell you when you ask those questions. Our guide is a must-read for those looking to save time and money.

Download Your Free Guide Today!

5 Ways Bookkeepers Support Business Decisions

As your business grows, you need to surround yourself with a team of people that have the skills and drive to help you take your vision to the next level. And when it comes to bookkeepers, you want a financial quarterback on your side, not a data-entry monkey.

Unfortunately, both can be called bookkeepers, but the quarterback is the bookkeeper that asks how they can make your business better. They’ll pair their knowledge with a clear assessment of your business data to help you make the business decisions that are in the best interests of your company.

For example, a bookkeeper can improve how you approach decisions about:

Managing Cash Flow

Have difficulty keeping track of your cash? Great bookkeepers can give you a cash flow report that shows where your cash has been spent. They can also develop cash flow projections that will help you to manage your current and future cash needs.

Selecting Projects

If you take on a lot of project work, a bookkeeper can assist you with project costing and give you a breakdown of which jobs made you money and which jobs didn’t. This can help inform the decisions you make about what jobs are worth taking on in the future.

Improving Gross Margins

Are you looking to improve your company’s gross margin? A talented bookkeeper can help you analyze direct and indirect costs and determine where your greatest opportunities for improvement lie, enabling you to make informed decisions about production, materials, and pricing.

Offering Employee Incentives

To get the most out of your employees, you have to encourage their efforts. Whether you’re looking to launch an incentives program or expand an existing one, your bookkeeper can help you analyze, plan, and execute a bonus scheme that will enhance employee performance.

Buying or Leasing

Small- and medium-sized business owners need to consider their investments carefully, particularly when it comes to big ticket items like office space and equipment. Should you lease, or buy? Your bookkeeper can give you the data you need to make a wise decision.

Your bookkeeper can also help you make decisions about expense management, tax filings, and a host of other issues. These insights can impact the growth and efficiency of your business and also ensure that your business stays in line with relevant business regulations and CRA requirements.

Learn more about how Legacy Advantage can help you make the right business decisions. Contact us today.

 

7 Apps To Streamline Your Business Cloud Accounting

It goes without saying that your business should have an online presence. But should you take your business online? And what does that even mean? Simply put, the future of business management is in the cloud. No, not “up in the clouds,” actually ON THE CLOUD — using business cloud accounting software or apps.

If you’re not yet familiar with the cloud, then in the simplest terms according to PC Magazine, “cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.” From file storage, back-ups, and software updates to group collaboration and client management, business cloud solutions offer companies enormous benefits. And while every aspect of cloud computing may not be a fit for your business, business cloud accounting will be.

Cloud applications effectively streamline business accounting functions, so let’s take a look at some apps that may benefit your company in the following areas:

Integrated Cloud Accounting Platform

The first step in establishing a business cloud accounting system is to select a cloud-based platform from which all of your other applications will be managed. Our preferred choice is QuickBooks Online (QBO). It’s easy to learn, and it integrates with thousands of other applications.

Point of Sales (POS) System

If you need a POS, then Square is a great choice. It has a very simple cost structure, and a beautiful interface suitable for most retail operations. If you don’t need a POS, you can email invoices directly from QBO, which handily offers your customers the option to pay by credit card.

Cloud applications effectively streamline business accounting functions Click To Tweet

Receipt Tracking

Never lose a receipt again! HubDoc and Receipt Bank are mobile applications that allow you to take photos of receipts and store that information digitally. As soon you as you digitize your receipts, you can throw away the original rather than store it in a shoe box under your desk.

Data Analysis and Reporting

QBO has great native reports, from simple profit and loss statements and balance sheets to more complex reports that can break down your profits and losses by month, by customer, by class, or against your budget. Unfortunately, QBO’s dashboard and visuals aren’t as impressive as its data. If looks matter, another option is Fathom, which allows you to generate both insightful and beautiful reports.

Transfer and Storage of Data

Your financial team can’t accurately process the information they don’t have or can’t read. Receipts, invoices, statements and other paper documents are easily lost or garbled, but there are tools that can digitize and upload these to your cloud accounting system. On the go, you can use the mobile app CamScanner to upload items you’ve just received. If you’ve got a backlog of paperwork in the office, you can digitize it with the Scansnap scanner and never look back.

 

Looking for more tips on how to set up a business cloud accounting system? Legacy Advantage would love to help.

 

Three Ways to Achieve More Simplicity in Business

In so many ways, workplace productivity and efficiency boil down to finding greater simplicity in business, and most of us can agree that simplicity and administration are infrequent bedfellows.

Recently, I was listening to a Harvard Business Review podcast interview with Basecamp CEO Jason Fried in which he was advocating that businesses reduce administrative burdens so that employees can focus more on their work.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Simplicity has always been at the core of our philosophy at Legacy Advantage. Now that’s easier to say than it is to achieve, so we’ve embraced the Results-Only Work Environment approach known as the ROWE system developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. The basic logic is this: when, where and how you do your work is less important than what results from that work. Simple, right?

Simplicity in business starts by reframing the question and asking yourself not what you’re trying to track but what you’re trying to achieve. Our aim has been to eliminate as much administrative work as possible so that we can instead spend that time adding value for our bookkeeping clients.

Ask yourself not what you’re trying to track but what you’re trying to achieve. Click To Tweet

Here are three easy ways you can achieve simplicity in business:

1. Have as few meetings as possible

When you think about it, meetings are expensive. If five of your employees participate in a one-hour meeting, that’s five productive hours gone. Truth be told, meetings (especially status update meetings) are usually a huge waste of time considering, as Fried points out, these updates could simply be summarized and sent out.

If you’re running meetings daily, weekly, or even monthly, take a step back and ask yourself this: What is the result I’m trying to achieve, and what is the result I’m actually achieving?

If the aim is to keep everyone in the loop, why is that important? Does person A working in Department X really need to know what person B in Department Y is doing? If yes, then do persons C and D need to be there? More importantly, can A update B in a more efficient way and still keep management in the loop? Bottom line, hold meetings sparingly and run them efficiently

2. Stop tracking time and attendance

Companies spend a lot of resources tracking holidays, paid leave, unpaid leave, sick days, etc., but keeping track of whether or not someone is at their desk eight hours a day only proves that they were there. It doesn’t tell you how productive they were.

What if they could be more productive by working outside the normal 9-5 business hours? My senior manager comes to work at 11am. Crazy, right? Not really. He’s a night owl, so he works late because that’s when he’s most productive. Give your employees some flexibility and they may pleasantly surprise you.

The same goes for holidays. Tracking holidays is tedious, especially as your team grows. What if you let your employees decide when and how long they need for vacation? How much do the details matter if your employees are refreshed, at their best, and delivering quality results on time. If your fear is that employees will abuse this sort of policy, then you either have a corporate culture issue or they’re not the right employees.

3. Maximize your profits and efforts

Did you know: the majority of your profits come from a small number of customers and only a small percentage of your marketing efforts acquire the bulk of your new customers.

Now, when you have a great idea or a great product, you tend to want to tell everyone about it. You need spread the word wide and far by as many means as possible, right? Wrong.

What you need to do is maximize your productivity by identifying your best margins. Who are your top customers? What are your most effective marketing channels? You need to find your niche.

All of these ideas about maximizing efforts and profits feeds into the 80/20 principle which I’ve written about at length in a previous blog.

Once you’ve figured it out, trim the fat by eliminating underperforming and unnecessary products and services. By doing this, you can redirect your time, energy, and resources towards your top marketing activities and big ticket clients.

Finding greater simplicity in business ultimately maximizes both profits and productivity, makes your employees happier and frees up your valuable time.

 

Bookkeeping Rates of Pay: What You Need to Know

Have you ever considered how rates of pay can impact your relationship with your bookkeeper?

Traditionally, bookkeepers (not to mention many, many other contract professions) have charged an hourly rate of pay. This is why most conversations about project costs and estimates begin with the question, “What’s your hourly rate?”

However, an hourly fee structure is no guarantee that you’re getting the best value or the best service. At Legacy Advantage, we advocate a flat fee over an hourly rate. Considering rates of pay when choosing a bookkeeper can save you time, money, and provides relational opportunities. Here’s why:

Hourly Rates of Pay Encourage the Bookkeeper to Take their Time

The math here is pretty simple. The more hours your bookkeeper works, the more he/she gets paid. Unfortunately, this can make bookkeepers resistant to adopting new technologies or innovations that would speed their work because reducing hours means reducing income. Why innovate when slow and tedious means more income?

Flat Rates of Pay Encourage Bookkeepers to Work Faster

To set a flat fee that accounts for all of the work involved, the bookkeeper must conduct a lengthy discovery process with you, the client, in order to clarify the scope of the engagement. This will actually encourage the bookkeeper to innovate, because the more efficiently he/she can complete the file, the more he/she earns per hour. You still win, because a clearly defined scope and an efficiently managed process result in less admin work for your staff.

Considering rates of pay can save you time, money, and provides relational opportunities. Click To Tweet

The Client Assumes All of the Risk When Paying Hourly

If there are errors in the work that’s been done, the bookkeeper will charge you for the additional time it takes to fix those errors. If you have a question about the process, the time it takes to answer your question will also be billed to you. This turns the relationship between you and your bookkeeper into a purely transactional one that will discourage you from being more actively engaged with the work your bookkeeper is doing.

The Bookkeeper Assumes All of the Risk When Paying a Flat Fee

Under a flat fee structure, the bookkeeper will take as much time as necessary to fix errors in the work. That time is on them, and the more time spent correcting errors, the less they end up getting paid per hour. This incentivizes your bookkeeper to get it right the first time. You, as the client, are also free to ask questions without incurring additional fees, which results in a much better relationship between you and your bookkeeper.

 

Interested in hiring Legacy Advantage to help with your business bookkeeper? Get a quote today!

 

Your Stress-Free Guide to Year End Bookkeeping

“Year end” – what a vague phrase! To non-accountants, it doesn’t mean much beyond planning your new year’s eve party, but for us, it’s a critical concept and activity.

Year end is the time of year where you “wrap up” your financial year, including inventory, revenue, taxes – the whole financial works! Once your year end documentation is complete, accountants will then take these numbers to conduct an audit, review, or simply file your tax return.

How To Ensure Your Year End is Done Correctly

At Legacy Advantage, we have our own way of ensuring an accurate and complete year end. I’m going to share some proprietary information with you, so shhh… keep it a secret. I hope the following checklist takes a bit of stress off your plate and makes your year end process a little easier.

Tax Agency Compliance Review

Every company needs to comply with federal and provincial regulatory bodies. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is a federal tax agency to whom you pay your corporate taxes and your government sales tax (GST) / harmonized sales tax (HST). The Ministry of BC is the BC Provincial tax agency to whom you pay your provincial sales tax (PST).

What to do:

  • Check with the CRA and Ministry of BC to ensure that all GST, PST, payroll remittances have been filed and paid.
  • If you have outstanding amounts, pay them immediately.

Bank Reconciliation Review

The purpose of Bank Reconciliation is to verify if all of your bank transactions have been captured. This is the most fundamental step in ensuring your bookkeeping is accurate.

What to do: 

  • Pull up your bank reconciliation for the last month of your fiscal year.
  • Check if you have any uncleared deposits or payments. If so, are they stale? Are there errors?
  • Any uncleared amounts should be addressed individually. Should they be cleared out or should they remain as uncleared?

Balance Sheet Review

Your Balance Sheet shows you at your company’s Assets & Liabilities are at any point in time. It’s important that this picture is correct before you file your taxes.

What to do:

Many balance sheet accounts need to be reviewed for year end. The following are among the most important:

  • Prepaid Expenses – Are these amounts still prepaid? Or should they be recognized?
  • If you have a sales clearing account (because you have a point of sales system), does it actually clear?
  • Accounts Payable (AP) – Are all AP amounts real? Have these bills already been paid but just not marked off? Cleaning up AP can be quite cumbersome. Reach out to us if you need help.
  • Accounts Receivable (AR) – Are all AR amounts real? Have they already been collected, but just not marked off? Or are they bad debt? Below is a video on how to write off bad debt in Quickbooks Online (QBO).

Profit and Loss Review

Profit and loss statement shows you how much profit… or loss… you have made in the year.

What to do:

  • Let’s assess whether any expenses should be capitalized. Look through your Office Expense and Repair and Maintenance ledger to see if you made any purchases over $500. If so, check if they should be capitalized instead of expensed. For example, if you bought a new Mac for ~$1200, then it should be recorded to “Computer Equipment,” instead of expensed through Office Expenses.
  • Are there any items that look strange? For example, negative sales or positive expenses.
  • Are there any transactions in “uncategorized transactions” or “suspense” or “Ask My Accountant”? Those need to be allocated and cleared up.
  • Lastly, we do a trend analysis. We pull up the profit & loss by month and look for any anomalies. For example, we can check if rent/utilities/payroll amounts have any significant variances from month to month. If so, it might be an indication of error.

Transaction Review

Your bookkeeping is simply an amalgamation of all the transactions you have recorded in the year. It’s important to selectively review these individual transactions to ensure that they are correct.

What to do:

  • For example, at Legacy Advantage, we take a risk-based approach to in-depth review. More specifically, we take a look at all the large transactions to ensure that they are recorded properly.
  • Another area of high risk is journal entries. We review all large journal entries to ensure accuracy.

Client Specific Review

Each client has their own bookkeeping nuances. For example, they want the numbers to be presented a special way, or they want their payroll cost split over a number of different projects. These special requests need to be reviewed.

What to do:

  • Each client has its own nuances. We perform a review according to these nuances. For example, non-profits have deferred revenues and/or funds.

Account Overview

Here’s where we can get a little creative. After all the accounts are accurate, we can look for ways to add value to our clients.

Here are some examples:

  • Do our clients have a hard time tracking Cost of Goods Sold? Then we can recommend POS systems and make introductions to vendors to improve this process.
  • Do our clients have high transaction costs? If so, we can make introductions to Payment Processors to see if they can get a better deal.
  • Do our clients have sales in more than one provinces? Then we need to assess whether there are any sales tax exposures.

At the end of all of this, we can then send these files to your tax accountant for them to file your taxes.

Need assistance correctly reviewing your year end?

You still have time to contact us before your year end documents are due.

 

How to Register and File a GST Payment

Starting a new business or organization comes with its freedoms – but there are a lot of responsibilities and information that you must learn to be successful. You might have heard that you need to get a GST number and need to make a GST payment.

We outline who needs a GST number, how to register, how to track GST, how to file in Quickbooks, and make a GST payment. No matter where you are on your journey – if you’re just starting or in the middle of reconciling your year end – this article will help you understand and action everything around GST.

What is a GST Number?

First things first: a GST number is a basically your CRA Business Number followed by RT0001. For example, if your business number is 123456789, then your GST number is 123456789RT0001. (Your GST number could end in RT0002, but those are rare cases).

Having a GST number requires you to charge GST on taxable sales. At the same time, it allows you to get a refund on the GST that you pay (in the form of ITC’s).

When To Register For a GST Number

You might be unsure of when you need to register for a GST number and how it will benefit your company or organization. The short answer is that if your organization is working with $30,000 or more per year, then it’s time to register for a GST number.

However, don’t fear registering for a GST number, it comes with some benefits. GST is a smart tax because it allows you to claim GST that you have paid as “Input Tax Credits”. That means you qualify for refunds and can claim some money back.

To learn more, check out a post I wrote about when to register for a GST number.

If your organization is working with $30,000/yr, it’s time to register for a GST number. Click To Tweet

How to Calculate Your GST Payment

You’re probably asking yourself, “how do I track my GST accurately?”.

Fortunately, most accounting programs are robust tax crunching machines. Each entry you make will have a field dedicated to extracting that valuable tax information. I recommend using an accounting software like Quickbooks Online to properly track your GST.

Download Quickbooks’ step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to make GST calculations work for your business.

One point you should be aware of, however, is if you make a journal entry into the GST account. This is because if you use a journal entry, the GST module won’t pick it up. You have to reverse calculate the GST so that the GST is properly accounted.

If you have this problem, contact us at Legacy Advantage and we’ll show you how to do it properly.

How to File (and Pay) your GST

Using an accounting software like Quickbooks Online is a tremendous help for tracking your GST information. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t actually “file” your GST payment for you. Instead, the software simply gives you a print out of all the information that you’ll be to file and pay.

Again, if you ever need help navigating through Quickbooks, I recommend downloading Quickbooks’ guide on filing taxes.

The easiest way to file and pay at the same time is through your online banking.

If you need additional help, contact your banker to set up your GST payment process for you. Make sure to bring along your GST number.

Still need help with your GST payment?

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about your GST payment – or any other step of the way. We’re always happy to help.

 

Issuing Accurate Donation Receipts: Basic Guidelines for Charities and Non-Profits

Charitable organizations and non-profits rely on the donations they receive and the funds they raise to finance their operations, and in return issue donation receipts to their donors for tax purposes. This may sound like a straightforward process, but in reality, the issuing of donation receipts can get pretty complicated. Let’s look at some of the challenges charities face in sorting this out.

Making sure that donation receipts are accurate and official

First and foremost, to be considered official, donation receipts issued by the charity must include every piece of information specified by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Omitting any of these will result in the CRA denying the donation receipt, which means more admin work for the charity and a tax filing headache for the donor.

Common pieces of information that get left off of receipts include the:

  • Legal name of the charity (not the operating name)
  • Charity number
  • Receipt number
  • Location from which the receipt is being issued
  • CRA web address (www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charitiesandgiving)

A wise precaution for charities and non-profits is to use a receipt template to ensure that all of the necessary information is present. Donors can use the CRA checklist to confirm the accuracy of the receipts they receive in advance before submitting these to the CRA.

A wise precaution for charities and non-profits is to use a receipt template. Click To Tweet

Knowing when to issue donation receipts, and for how much

If the charity receives a direct donation, then the amount written on the donation receipt is equal to the amount that was donated—simple. Other cases are more complex. Consider this scenario. A charity is hosting a gala that includes dinner. To get in, donors must pay $100.

The donation receipt should be made out for $100, right? Wrong. Providing the meal costs the charity $25, so the meal value is actually a benefit to the donor. On the donation receipt, this has to be clearly broken down: the full amount of the ticket ($100), the donor’s advantage ($25), and the difference ($75). Only the difference is claimable by the donor for tax purposes.

Let’s do another example. Let’s say you are a member of a sports club. The make a donation of $100, but it comes with a club membership that gives you access to the facilities. This gym access membership is a benefit to the donor. Let’s assume that the normal cost of going to this gym is $20, then the donation receipt can only be for $80.

Recognizing which donations don’t qualify for receipts

Sometimes charities and non-profits accept “donations” in exchange for providing a product or service (e.g.: facilitating a film screening or some other event, activity, or presentation). In reality, the donation is payment for the product or service provided, and while this is indeed a bit of a gray area, charities and non-profits should not issue donation receipts in these cases.

Here are some other common types of donations that do not qualify for a tax receipt:

  • Donations received as a result of an obligation or inducement
  • Donations of services to a charity (as a contractor)
  • Gift cards and certificates
  • The purchase of goods or services from a charity
  • Donations directed to specific individuals, families, or non-qualified recipient
  • Donations of non-qualifying securities
  • Use of vacation property
  • Lottery or raffle tickets

Assigning a fair market value to non-cash donations

Donation receipts can be issued for donations of shares or assets by assigning a market value to the donation. But how is this value determined? Let’s say a donor transfers marketable securities, like stocks or bonds, to a non-profit. In this case, the non-profit would issue a donation receipt for the fair market value of the securities on the date of the transfer. If the shares go up or down in value the next day, it doesn’t matter.

Now let’s say the donation was an item, like a car or a computer. If the item has a readily available market value (e.g.: a second-hand car worth $3,000), the non-profit would just issue a donation receipt for that amount. It gets more complicated when the value of the non-cash gift is unclear. Say a donor gives a piece of art to the non-profit. To assign a fair value, the non-profit would need to get an expert to independently evaluate the piece’s worth, and then issue a donation receipt based on this valuation.

Do you have donations that you need help sorting out?

Give us a shout today!

If you have a question about what the difference is between a charity, non-profit and a foundation, click here.

How Long Do I Need to Keep My CRA Tax Return?

After you’ve inputted your daily, monthly and year-end tax records, you may think that you’ve completed your bookkeeping work. Unfortunately not. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How long to keep tax records in Canada?” The answer, sadly, isn’t one or two years. Officially, it’s “six years after the tax year”. Or in other words, it’s best practice to keep your tax records for at least seven years.

Why do I need to keep my CRA tax return for seven years?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the tax agency in Canada, may request to see your tax return within a seven year period. Depending on the level of engagement, you may be required to produce the original receipts. This will help the CRA determine if you, in fact, do qualify for any deductions you have filed for and if you owe any more taxes.

If you run a business or organization, it is your responsibility to keep these documents and present them upon request. Failing to produce originals to substantiate your CRA tax return can result in the CRA denying your expense claims and charge you interest and penalties.

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What is the best way to store my tax records?

We now live in a time when this is easier than ever to store large amounts of information digitally. Instead of filling a corner of your office with jam-packed banker’s boxes, you can manage them electronically. Keeping tax records in electronic format is a perfectly accepted practice.  

I highly recommend uploading your CRA tax return and other original receipts electronically. Why? Because doing so will:

  • save space, time and money
  • allows for easy retrieval
  • prevent receipts from fading

If you don’t have too many receipts, one option is to take photos of them and upload them to a cloud service, such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Instead of labouring to properly date and file each receipt, any uploaded photos will automatically be date stamped. This will save you countless hours. The simplest way is to organize your stored receipts are by month, with each month having its own folder. If you have lots of receipts, however, it’s best to organize them by vendor.

If you use Quickbooks Online and feel a little adventurous, you can look into HubDoc. You take photos of your receipts on the go with their app. Using OCR technology, HubDoc extracts the vendor information, date, amount, and tax amount. You can then push those transactions into Quickbooks Online. It’s a tremendously powerful tool that’s worth considering for your recordkeeping management.

Remember that at the end of your day, it’s your responsibility to keep your CRA tax return for seven years. It’s not the responsibility of your accountant, bookkeeper, or office manager. It’s yours. Therefore, it’s an important topic to discuss with your financial team and ensure everyone knows whose responsibility it is to keep certain documents.

Remember the adage:

“If everyone’s responsible for it, no one is.”

If you need any help digitizing your recordkeeping, please contact us.