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The CRA is Watching – 5 Audit Red Flags

Posted by Stacey Duggan

|

Oct 9, 2013 11:06:00 AM

CRA is Watching 5 Audit Red FlagsHow does the CRA make sure that Canadian businesses comply with current tax law? They audit. A CRA audit can come in one of three flavors: Income Tax Audit, HST/GST Audit, and Employer Compliance Audit.

The Income Tax Audit is the most basic (and least painful) type of CRA audit. Essentially, the CRA will examine the amount of money you spent and earned. This isn't to say that an Income Tax Audit won't impact your business. It will cost you time and money.

The HST/GST Audit verifies that you have been faithfully collecting and remitting GST/HST (Goods and Services tax/ Harmonized sales tax). This CRA audit is more involved than the Income Tax Audit.

The Employer Compliance Audit is used to ensure proper withholding and remittance. It's important to note that the CRA also examines taxable benefits in this audit.

You may feel a little better knowing that the CRA will not perform both the Income Tax Audit andthe HST/GST Audit on the same firm. That's small comfort, however, when you realize that a CRA audit is time-consuming, tedious, expensive, and intrusive. It's best to avoid an audit from the start, and the best way to do that is to avoid the following red flags:

1. Neglecting to pay CPP or EI.

One of your responsibilities as a Canadian employer is to withhold CPP contributions and EI premiums from your employees' pay cheques and then to send these funds along to the CRA. In addition to your employees' contributions and premiums, you must add your own contributions to these funds. If you don't, the CRA will require that you cover both your own portion and that of your employees.

2. Reporting Consecutive Losses.

Nobody likes to admit that their businesses are suffering – until tax time, that is. The government allows for losses by offering extra tax credits. This helps fledgling businesses to make it past those difficult first years. If you report four or more consecutive losses, however, the CRA will likely audit to see what's going on.

3. Failing to Hire an Accountant or Outsourced Payroll Processing Firm.

The CRA knows that when people handle their accounting themselves, they're more prone to making errors. In addition, when you handle your own accounting, there's more temptation to include income or expenses that shouldn't be included in your reports. For these reasons, the CRA is more likely to audit small businesses who handle their accounting themselves.

4. Reporting Excessive Business Expenses.

If you report business expenses that are much higher than you usually report, or if your business expenses are higher than other similar businesses in your area, the CRA may want to find out why. Sometimes businesses report higher-than-usual business expenses when they face a big expansion or remodeling project. You can avoid this red flag by spreading your business expenses out over several years instead of tackling everything at once.

5. Receiving Most of Your Income in Cash.

The CRA looks for unreported income, and cash deposits will be scrutinized. You should be able to explain each of your cash deposits, especially if they're not being reported as income. The CRA especially targets small businesses when it comes to analyzing cash income.

An outsourced payroll processing service can help to minimize your risk of a CRA audit by guaranteeing proper withholding and remittance, helping you to become 100% compliant, and structuring your payroll processes to avoid audit red flags. If you feel that you're currently on shaky ground when it comes to a CRA audit, take steps today to improve your situation and your peace of mind.

7 Signs It's Time to Outsource Payroll

Topics: Outsourced Payroll Service, CRA Audit, Government Compliance, Best Payroll Calculator, CRA, CRA Compliant, CPP, EI, Tax Laws, Canadian Businesses, Audit Red Flags

5 Reasons Businesses Dread Processing Payroll

Posted by Stacey Duggan

|

Aug 27, 2013 10:00:00 AM

Reasons Businesses Dread Processing PayrollIt's no surprise that processing payroll is toward the bottom of the list of tasks that business owners like to do. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that most business owners dread processing payroll. On the surface, processing payroll seems like a fairly simple and straightforward business responsibility, but anyone with payroll experience knows that there are reasons to dread it. Here are five.

1. Paperwork.

There might be a few people out there who enjoy paperwork, but if you feel that there are never enough hours in the day, paperwork can be a real thorn in your side. And with payroll processing, the paperwork is endless.

From the moment you hire an employee, you have to start keeping track of paperwork for that person. Not only do you have to stay on top of deductions, taxes, and contributions for each employee every pay period, but you also need to keep accurate enough records to complete end-of-year reports for the CRA. It takes an organized person with solid systems to keep all of this paperwork straight.

2. Deductions.

It's the employer's responsibility to deduct Employment Insurance premiums, Canada Pension Plan contributions, and income taxes from the employees' paycheques. Each of these deductions has its own formula and its own rules, and the employer is responsible for correctly figuring out each amount.

The CRA has an online calculator to help employers with these calculations, but pay close attention to the disclaimers: "You assume the risk associated with using this calculator," and "The reliability of the calculations produced depends on the accuracy of the information you provide." Therefore, you can't use the online calculator as an excuse if you end up with mistakes in your deductions.

3. Remitting.

Once you've finally figured out how much to deduct from each of your employees' paycheques, it's time to face the next dreaded task: remitting the deductions to the CRA. Monthly payroll deductions are due the 15th of each month, and your remittance needs to arrive on time. If it's just a day late, you'll face a fine, which we'll talk about next.

4. Fines.

If the CRA finds that your business is not properly remitting CPP contributions, EI premiums, and income tax, your business will be fined. If this happens more than once in a calendar year, the CRA will levy an additional fine. These fines can be a huge hit to your company's bottom line as well as to your morale as an employer.

5. Changing laws and regulations.

Many small business owners find that over time they can get the hang of payroll processing. It can become part of their daily, weekly, and monthly routines. But then, as new laws are passed, the rules change, and they find themselves back at square one. Laws related to payroll processing change frequently, and it can be quite difficult for harried business owners to keep on top of all the changes.

One solution to handling these dreaded payroll processing tasks is to turn your payroll tasks over to a third-party payroll service provider like The Payroll Edge. These services are experts in the details. They know the laws and rules, and they have systems in place to keep your business running smoothly.

7 Signs It's Time to Outsource Payroll

Topics: Payroll, Employee Payroll Deductions, hire payroll service, Payroll Calculator, CRA, Payroll Deductions, Great Payroll Service Provider, CPP, EI, Employee Payroll Tax, Small Business Payroll

The Danger of Hiring Nothing But Independent Contractors

Posted by Stacey Duggan

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Aug 20, 2013 11:45:00 AM

Independent ContractorBoth employers and employees can benefit from independent contractor arrangements. Employers like working with independent contractors because they don't have to pay CPP, EI, income tax, pensions, and benefits. The contractors themselves also appreciate the arrangement because they can write off reasonable business expenses and avoid the bureaucratic hassles that accompany working within a business.

Working in an independent contractor framework seems like a win-win situation for both employer and employee, so what's the catch?

The CRA is strict about the definition of an independent contractor because they know that some people use independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and benefits. To draw a clear line on the issue, the CRA has formulated a four-point test to determine whether or not someone is an employee or an independent contractor.

Abiding by this four-point test is critical to you as an employer. If the CRA finds that you're not following the regulations governing independent contractors, you could be subject to back taxes, CPP contributions, and EI deductions for the time spanning your employee's involvement with your company. This is not just an issue for large corporations. Any business, large or small, could find itself facing huge financial penalties if the CRA finds that it hasn't followed its guidelines regarding independent contractors.

The guidelines specifically examine control, ownership of tools, profit/risk, and integration.

1. Control

Essentially, the CRA wants to know who is in control of the work done.  If the employer specifies how the job will be done and directs the worker's daily activities, the worker is an employee, not an independent contractor.

This doesn't mean that the employer doesn't have any say in a project. Of course, the employer can impose reasonable limits. For example, the employer can say, "The brochure needs to be printed by March 22nd," but the independent contractor should be in charge of how the project is accomplished.

2. Ownership of Tools

In most cases, independent contractors must own and maintain their own tools and equipment. If a worker reports to work at a business and uses the business' equipment, that person is an employee. If, on the other hand, the work is done at the independent contractor's office or home on the worker's own equipment, it's much more likely that the CRA will consider this worker an independent contractor.

3. Profit/Risk

Employees don't have many opportunities to take risks or incur profits outside of their agreed-upon wages. Yes, employees incur losses when they travel to work and pay parking fees, but these do not classify as risks in the eyes of the CRA. Also, employees may earn bonuses, but again, this is not what the CRA has in mind when discussing risks.

Profits and risks come into play when an independent contractor can turn down work or choose to take a loss for various reasons such as doing work for charity, trying to secure better contracts, or obtaining a client at a loss to secure future business or gain prestige. Also, independent contractors can set their own rates, even varying their rates for certain projects, which is not a privilege employees usually enjoy.

4. Integration

How integrated is the worker into the company? This can be difficult to determine and quantify, but the CRA uses it as one of their criteria for determining a worker's status. Contractors are less integrated than employees in the company's day-to-day affairs. They often come in only occasionally, or they work at the office when handling specific projects.

The Rules Are a Grey Area

It can be difficult to know if you're compliant, as each situation is gauged on a case-by-case basis, based on the personal interpretation of circumstances by the specific CRA Auditor you are dealing with. Rather than running the risk of having independent contractors be assessed as employees, it can be well worthwhile to seek professional advice before getting into any trouble.

What Are You Leaving to Chance by Handling Payroll on Your Own

Topics: Payroll Tax, Payroll Service Provider, Canadian Payroll, Canadian Payroll Deductions, CRA Audit, CRA, Remitting Taxes, Canada Revenue Agency, Independent Contractor, CRA Compliant, CPP, EI

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