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Business Advisory, Personal and Corporate Taxes, Business Start-Up, Bookkeeping

News You Need to Know

Medical Expenses and Income Taxes: Changes and Unusual Items

Posted August 15, 2018

Canadians can claim medical expenses on their income taxes as a deduction, but it can be an underutilized deduction. 

You need to keep your receipts and total them up, and you don’t get to deduct the full amount of your medical expenses (there are thresholds and percentages involved), but you’re paying the expenses anyway—why not take advantage of any deductions you can get with them?

Fertility Treatment Deductions

The Canadian federal budget in 2017 included a clarification to rules on claiming medical expenses for the purposes of conceiving a child. In the past, only people who had been diagnosed as infertile were able to claim fertility treatment expenses as an income tax deduction. The changes included in the 2017 budget now allow anyone using fertility treatments to conceive a child to claim them as a Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC) on their income taxes. 

This clarification also included the rather unusual condition that the METC can also be claimed retroactively for up to 10 years—people wanting to claim a METC that they were previously ineligible for can re-file their taxes for that year with the updated METC amounts.

Other Medical Expenses

Another interesting thing about claiming medical expenses on your income taxes is just how many medical services and devices are eligible to be claimed. Some of the more unusual items that are allowed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are:

  • an air conditioner or air purifier;
  • computer peripherals;
  • electrolysis;
  • a furnace;
  • laser eye surgery;
  • medical marijuana;
  • medical services provided outside of Canada;
  • moving expenses;
  • premiums paid to private medical plans;
  • renovation or construction expenses;
  • tutoring services;
  • wigs.

These are just a small sampling of some of the medical expenses that might be considered a claimable medical expense by CRA. Many of these items require a prescription from a doctor to be eligible to be claimed, but if a doctor has decided that you need a specific item or service because of a medical condition, it’s worth looking into. 

Your next stop after seeing your doctor might be seeing Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants—find out if you can claim the expenses or not, and what you need to do to claim them!

Contact Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants to help you understand the tax laws and how they impact you. One complimentary meeting with them will put you and your business on a more profitable and positive path.


Changes To Tuition Credit Usage And Accumulation

Posted August 3, 2018

Students in post-secondary institutions and trade schools in Canada have historically been able to claim tuition deductions, as well as education credits for time spent in school, and textbook credits to offset the cost of purchasing textbooks. 

Changes to Canadian federal tax laws beginning in 2017 eliminated the federal education and textbook credits (the tuition credit remains). Some provinces and territories have also done this—it varies from province to province. 

Alberta passed legislation to remove ties that caused Alberta to follow suit automatically when the federal government made changes to education tax credits. At this point, Alberta is maintaining the education tax credit.

As per the Canada Revenue Agency, the federal income tax changes regarding education also included a change to occupational skills course deductions. If a student is taking an occupational skills course at a post-secondary institution, they may qualify for a tuition deduction for that course, even if the student is not at the post-secondary level. The requirements for students to qualify for this deduction are that they must be 16 years of age or older at the end of the year, and they must be enrolled in the course for the purpose of becoming trained at an occupation.

This is not a change, but rather a strange part of Canadian tax law regarding carrying forward tuition credits that many people may not be aware of. If you CAN take the tuition credits, the federal government will assume that you HAVE taken the credits, and reduce your balance accordingly, whether you take them or not.

From the Advisor, “After careful review, the judge found that the law requires a taxpayer’s unused tuition, textbook and education credits to be reduced by the amount that the taxpayer “may deduct […] for the year.”

In other words, it’s irrelevant whether the taxpayer chooses to deduct her tuition, textbook and education credits in a year to reduce her tax to zero. Since she was permitted to claim the amounts, her credits are simply reduced whether she actually claims the amounts or not.

To support this conclusion, the judge referred to both the Department of Finance technical note that accompanied the rule’s enactment along with the 1996 federal budget, which states: “[T]he budget proposes to allow the student to carry forward these credits indefinitely until they have sufficient tax liability to make use of them.”

As the judge explained, such phrasing “indicates that a student will be forced to use the credit once he or she has income against which the credit could be applied.”

Canada’s tax laws can be a strange and mysterious place—using an accounting service to help you navigate these waters can save you time, money, and sanity.

Contact Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants to help you understand the tax laws and how they impact you. One complimentary meeting with them will put you and your business on a more profitable and positive path.


Collecting Delinquent Accounts Receivable: Not As Scary As You Might Think

Posted July 23, 2018

Something every business deals with: collecting delinquent accounts. It’s a position no business wants to be in—you’re not getting the money you are owed, but you’re also running the risk of losing a customer and a business relationship.

Collections take a delicate touch—you want to get your money, but you also want to keep your customer!

Communication!

Your first and best tool for collections is communication. Communicate with your customers before the invoice is created so they know what to expect (and make sure that they agree with the charges). Make sure your invoices are clear and easy to understand, so customers know exactly what is owed, what you are billing them for, and when it is due.

Communicate with your customers after the invoice has been sent to make sure they received the invoice. Mailed and emailed invoices can and do get lost along the way sometimes.

They can also get “lost” on desks or in email in-boxes—sometimes a reminder helps your customer’s accounting department remember to track down an invoice that is waiting on approval for payment.

Communicate with your customers if the invoice becomes delinquent as well. Paying when an invoice is due is ideal, but communicating with your customer and working out a payment schedule is second best.

If a customer agrees to a payment date and then misses that date, that debt very well might end up with a collections agency. While you want to be reasonable and flexible, you also need to receive money for your services. A client who does not respect your business may not be a client you need to keep.

Be firm but fair

It’s most effective to remain as pleasant as possible, but you also need to remember that you are fully within your rights to ask for payment for services rendered (and that payment should be prompt—they’ve already had the service, and now it’s time to pay up). You’re not bothering anyone or being the bad guy by asking for payment for services received; you’re simply conducting business in a responsible manner.

Once an account has reached 90 days past due, it is likely that your client isn’t going to pay. At this point, you may have no choice but to hand the account off to a collections agency.

Like all aspects of your business, collections should be part of a plan that you have worked out and for which you have created procedures. There is some responsibility on the business owner to stay on top of their own accounts receivable as well—a lot of time can be wasted in waiting for payments for invoices that were never received if you aren’t communicating with customers regularly. Getting in touch with customers pro-actively also lets customers know that you are running a legitimate business, and that you know exactly what is going on with it.

For further detail on setting up an effective collections process, here is an excellent article from ABC Amega about creating your best chances to receive payment for your services.

Contact Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants to help you out with this decision. One complimentary meeting with them will put you and your business on a more profitable and positive path.


Accounting In The Cloud

Posted July 6, 2018

Rather than purchasing a software package and loading it up on the computers or server in your office, you can do all your accounting and keep all your accounting records online in an online “cloud” accounting service.

This is becoming a far more regular way for businesses to manage their accounting, but there are some pros and cons to doing this that you need to know before deciding whether cloud accounting is the right fit for your business.

The benefits of using an online accounting service:

  • You don’t need to make a large up-front purchase of software. Most (if not all) online software vendors will charge you a monthly subscription fee.
  • Your software and data are available on any computer or handheld device. You don’t need to purchase multiple licenses or software packages for multiple computers and users in your office. Both you and your clients can access the application and the data anytime, anywhere, which can be very useful and efficient when going over data with clients.
  • The supplier of the online accounting software is responsible for upgrading the software and doing backups. You don’t need to download new software patches and upgrades yourself (or buy a new version of your existing software); that should all be handled on the vendor’s end.
  • Data and software are always as current as possible. All work is done in real-time. An invoice or cheque entered by one person can be seen instantly by someone in another location.
  • There are options available to take your data processing completely out of your hands and all the responsibility of your bookkeeper/accountant. There are apps that can be used that can get all your information to your accountant without ever stepping foot in their office. It’s a great solution for business owners that just don’t have the time to deliver piles of paper regularly to their accountants office.

The drawbacks to using an online accounting service:

  • Security is the top concern for people using an online accounting/cloud service. Online accounting services first and foremost use encryption to keep data secure. From systemsandsoftware.com: “Cloud services utilize more complex security methods than the average computer owner is able to devise, giving your cloud-stored data an added level of protection.”
  • In spite of security being the top concern for most people, the more real danger is data being lost, rather than being hacked. One of the first steps when deciding to use an online accounting package would be to investigate how the company handles data storage. If they have a history of data loss, they probably are not a good choice for your cloud accounting needs. To limit the dangers of data loss, using more than one cloud-based system to back up your files is recommended (such as Google Drive).
  • Your financial data is stored with a third party. Regardless of how good their security is, you have no control over what they choose to do with that data.
  •  An internet connection is required. If your internet is down, you’re not doing any accounting today.

Moving from an office-based accounting package to one based on the cloud is a big step for any company. Shaw & Associates Chartered Accounting can help you figure out if this is a good move for your company, and which service you should choose. They can make the whole transition smooth and painless, allowing you to continue with the work that you do best.  

Contact Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants to help you out with this decision. One complimentary meeting with them will put you and your business on a more profitable and positive path.


Tax Changes to Employee Benefits

Posted June 22, 2018

Employees, spouses of employees, and children of employees can receive benefits of a personal nature from an employer. These benefits may be taxable if they meet specific criteria set out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If the benefits are taxable, they must be included in the income for the employee.

There was a media storm over some proposed changes from the CRA in 2017—they intended to tax all employee discounts as income; that has since been clarified by the federal government to assure taxpayers that the CRA will NOT be taxing all employee discounts. Employee discounts will be taxed as income as they have been in the past—i.e. they need to meet the criteria for being taxable benefits.

From Canada Revenue Agency

If you provide benefits to your employees, you always have to go through the same steps. If a step does not apply to you, skip it and go on to the next step:

  • determine if the benefit is taxable
  • calculate the value of the benefit
  • calculate payroll deductions
  • file an information return

There are, however, some changes to how employee benefits will be taxed. Again, from the CRA website: 

What's new?

We list the service enhancements and major changes below, including announced income tax changes that are not yet law at the time this guide was published. If they become law as proposed, they will be effective for 2017 or as of the dates given. 

Group term life insurance policies - Employer paid premiums

The CRA established a threshold ($50) for reporting Group Term Life Insurance premiums paid on behalf of retirees when it’s the only income reported on the T4A slip. For more information, go to Group term life insurance policies – Employer-paid premiums.

Home relocation loan deduction

Effective January 1, 2018 and later years, the home relocation loan deduction will be eliminated. For more information, go to Home-relocation loans.

Municipal officer’s expense allowance

For 2019 and later tax years, the full amount of the non‑accountable allowances paid to elected officers will be included in their income. For more information, go to Municipal officer's expense allowance.

Social events

Beginning in 2018, the threshold for reporting employee benefits derived from employer-sponsored social events will be increased to $150. For information, go to Social events. 

Transit passes

As of July 1, 2017 the public transit tax credit has been eliminated. For more information, go to Transit passes.

Still not sure if you’re eligible for a deduction under the new rules? It might be time to give your accountant a call.

Contact Shaw & Associates Chartered Accountants to help you out with your financial needs and tax planning and to give you the advice and services that will take you from where you are to where you want to be with your business. One complimentary meeting with them will put you and your business on a more profitable and positive path.


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