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Business Audits: How to Stay on the CRA's Good Side

Posted by Stacey Duggan

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Feb 27, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Business_Audits-_How_to_Stay_on_the_CRAs_Good_SideBusiness audits are no fun. They can create intense feelings of stress and uneasiness. Your business could be audited as part of standard procedure or because of an unusual or suspicious tax return. Either way, if you’re receiving a business audit, you’ll want to do anything you can to keep the CRA on your good side and make the process as smooth as possible both for yourself and for the auditors. Here are a few tips you can take advantage of if you’re left in this sticky situation.

Keep Detailed Records

Business audits will look at your receipts and records. Whatever income and expenses you have declared and claimed on your income taxes should be recorded. You must keep all of your records for six years after submitting a tax return. The CRA auditors will want to be able to look up any individual transaction and see that you can verify them. The more detailed your records are, the easier this process is going to be.

All of your expenses should be documented with accompanying receipts, with a reference explaining how they were paid, such as with a note saying they were paid with cash or with a cheque number used to pay them. If your records are inconsistent or if anything you’ve reported doesn’t match your records, the auditors will have to proceed with a more in-depth investigation. If all of your records are in order, then the audit will be complete and you’ll be able to get back to your regular business routine.

What Will Be Checked?

In order to know which records to have on hand, you’ll need to know what the CRA will be looking for. To keep on the CRA’s good side, you’ll need to provide all original documentation, no photocopies. This can include receipts for business purchases, invoices, any cancelled cheques, and all of your bank statements. They’ll also look at your tax calculations and your bookkeeping and accounting programs.

If Your Records Are Incomplete

During business audits, bookkeeping irregularities and errors or incomplete records are your responsibility. The auditors will not do your bookkeeping for you to help you become compliant. The auditors will ask you to make any of the necessary corrections, recalculate your taxes correctly, or obtain the required receipts or other proof needed, which may mean you’ll have to make some trips to the bank or to your suppliers. The more incomplete your records are, the longer the audit will take, which won’t make the CRA happy.

Work with the CRA

Having a good attitude and being helpful during business audits can help you out along the way. The CRA auditors are just doing their job. If they believe your expenses aren’t deductible or they don’t believe you’ve demonstrated valid reasons for your claims, it’s best to work with them, rather than argue with them.

Results

The audit can end in a few ways. The auditors might see that all of your records are in order and the process is completed without any issues that need to be resolved. Or, if discrepancies are noted, you’ll have to fix them. You may have misunderstood a tax regulation or made an honest mistake that must be rectified. There might be a credit or balance due. You’ll be notified by mail in at least thirty days and you’ll have to respond and either question or accept the finding of the audit.

Business audits don’t have to be so bad. If you have your documentation in order and work with the auditors throughout the process, it can be done in no time.

 

Canadian Payroll Tax Deduction Calculator

Topics: CRA Audit, CRA, business audits

The Hardest Part About Canadian Payroll Tax Calculations

Posted by Karen McMullen

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Jan 13, 2014 10:15:00 AM

The Hardest Part About Canadian Payroll Tax CalculationsThe hardest part about Canadian payroll tax calculations is not knowing that there are things you don’t know. There are so many subtleties to the law that are impossible to learn strictly by reading the statutes. Different situations can arise that completely change the way certain regulations are interpreted and applied. For many of these situations, experience is the only teacher. Unfortunately, experience can also be a harsh mistress. With Canadian payroll tax calculations, your first indication of a mistake could come in the form of an audit, along with fines and back payments. There’s a steep learning curve, and trying to go it alone can lead to costly errors along the way.

Even the Basics Aren’t Basic

On its face, one of the simplest parts of Canadian payroll tax calculations is determining the appropriate withholdings. There are even payroll tax calculators that can be of great assistance in making these calculations. Unfortunately, no calculator can tell you if you’ve classified your employees correctly, if all of their paperwork is in order, or if any circumstances exist that could change the necessary calculations. Figuring out what to enter in the calculator is entirely up to you. If you get it wrong, the resulting figures will also be wrong.

Knowing the Law is Different from Understanding the Law

Reading a statute doesn’t tell you anything about how it’s being applied in the field, during audits, and in courtrooms. Once the dry text hits real life application, a world of different interpretations come into play. If you’re not dealing with these laws every day, you won’t be developing the experience necessary to understand the complex interplay between legislation and application. To compound this problem, the way the laws interact with each other can be equally complex. Knowing which law to apply in a particular situation can only be learned through experience.

Constant Change Requires Constant Vigilance

The laws governing Canadian payroll tax calculations change, at a minimum, on an annual basis. Extreme situations or legal interpretations can bring about sudden changes to the law at any time. Keeping up with current and proposed changes is difficult enough—having an ear to the ground for sudden, unexpected, changes can be impossible for someone who doesn’t deal with payroll regulations on a daily basis. Some changes have a grace period to give you time to adjust; others will require immediate changes to the way you handle Canadian payroll tax calculations.

Asking for Help when You Need It

One of the hardest parts of Canadian payroll tax calculations can be admitting that you need help. Business owners tend to want to handle as many processes as possible in-house. That’s admirable—until it jeopardizes the company. Handling Canadian payroll tax calculations on your own can spread your staff too thin, cause unneeded stress, and open you up to fines, back payments, and lawsuits. Using a payroll service provider is a quick, easy way to relieve the burden on your staff, while also minimizing your exposure to legal problems. With their experience in the payroll industry, they can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re in full compliance with all applicable payroll regulations.

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

Topics: Payroll Tax, Payroll Service Provider, Outsourced Payroll Service, Canadian Payroll, Canadian Payroll Deductions, Payroll Tax Calculations, Payroll Tax in Canada, CRA Audit, Canadian Payroll Regulations

Canadian Payroll Tax Calculations - What You Need to Know

Posted by Stacey Duggan

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Nov 18, 2013 1:20:00 PM

Canadian Payroll Tax Calculations   What You Need to KnowIn an effort to save money, it can be tempting to try to handle as many tasks as possible in-house. Many businesses are asking their personnel to handle a growing list of responsibilities, regardless of their training or expertise. While some tasks afford a margin of error, and allow for time to learn the responsibilities, handling Canadian payroll tax responsibilities isn’t one of those tasks. If you’re considering handling Canadian payroll tax compliance in-house, there are a few things you should know beforehand.

It’s Not Easy

Canadian payroll tax laws are complex and difficult to learn, let alone master. To make matters worse, the application of those laws can change from one situation to the next, and may not be applied the same way by every agency. Learning which laws apply in which situation takes time and experience. During that time, any mistakes can cost the business dearly. The CRA, and other agencies, won’t accept ignorance or inexperience as an excuse for non-compliance. At best, mistakes will result in back payments, along with the associated costs of processing and distributing new cheques. At worst, fines and criminal penalties can be imposed for any errors in reporting or remittances.

It’s Not Constant

Learning Canadian payroll tax laws is a constant process. The laws, at all levels, change frequently. These changes can be in the form of new legislation, changes to existing legislation, or differences in application from year to year. Staying on top of these changes requires constant vigilance on the part of your personnel. They’ll have to attend seminars, training sessions, and read up on proposed and actual changes. This investment of time and effort will come directly out of their overall productivity. If they make any mistakes with the new legislation, any savings you enjoy by handling Canadian payroll tax in-house will quickly disappear.

It’s Not Without Risk

All of the time, effort, and money invested in training your personnel can vanish after a single CRA audit. Government agencies have stepped up their compliance checks, meaning more agents looking for more mistakes. The fines and penalties for first-time offenders have risen steadily in recent years, making any errors more costly. Even the best training, and intentions, aren’t a substitute for experience. While your personnel are trying to develop that experience, the CRA will be watching for any slip-ups.

There’s an Easier Way

Using your in-house personnel to handle Canadian payroll tax compliance may appear to save you money on upfront costs. You’re already paying your personnel, so why not add to their responsibilities? However, when you add in the cost of training, the lost productivity, and the potential fines and penalties, it becomes a losing proposition. There are ways to cut expenses that don’t put your business at greater risk of a government audit. Using an outsourced payroll provider saves you the expense of constant training, and keeps your personnel focused on tasks that directly benefit your business pursuits. A payroll provider also minimizes the risk of a government audit, saving you money on fines and legal representation during government actions. When you do the math, it just makes sense to let a payroll provider handle your Canadian payroll tax obligations.

Canadian Payroll Tax Deduction Calculator

Topics: Payroll Service Provider, Outsourced Payroll Service, Canadian Payroll, Canadian Payroll Deductions, Payroll Tax Calculations, CRA Audit, Canadian Payroll Regulations, Employee Payroll Deductions, Payroll Calculator, CRA, CRA Payroll Tax, Payroll Deductions

How to Avoid Staying Educated on Always Changing CRA Payroll Tax Rules

Posted by Stacey Duggan

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Nov 11, 2013 9:00:00 AM

How to Avoid Staying Educated on Always Changing CRA Payroll Tax RulesMany businesses still choose to handle payroll using in-house personnel. This is usually done either out of habit, or out of the belief that it saves the business money. Whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly expensive and risky to handle CRA payroll tax compliance using your own staff. As the CRA payroll tax rules continue to evolve and change, it’s becoming more difficult to keep up with all of the complexities. Any money saved by using your own staff can be instantly wiped out by a single error.

A Better Use of Time

Keeping up with CRA payroll tax legislation requires in-depth training and retraining. Even with all of that training, it still takes constant practice to meet all of the legislative requirements quickly and efficiently. Unless you have a dedicated payroll staff, your personnel probably only deal with CRA payroll tax requirements on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. This leaves gaps in their experience that can allow mistakes to creep in. With all of the other daily tasks your HR personnel are responsible for, it can be difficult for them to find the time to keep up with all of the payroll requirements. When they’re focused on payroll, they aren’t as productive in their other tasks. When they’re focused on their other tasks, they’re not gaining experience in CRA payroll tax compliance.

Employee Issues

Part of handling payroll involves handling employee questions and concerns. Employees always have questions about insurance and tax withholdings, overtime pay, missing hours, and myriad other concerns. Addressing these issues will consume even more time that your staff could be spending on more productive pursuits. Any mistakes must be corrected, CRA documentation must be changed, and new checks must be issued. The hours lost fixing minor errors can quickly add up to far more than the company is saving by using in-house personnel to handle payroll.

Convoluted Compliance

Even if your personnel have the right training and adequate experience to handle most payroll needs, that’s no guarantee that they’ll understand all of the nuances of the CRA payroll tax requirements. Worker classifications, insurance requirements, reporting documents, and more, can all change without notice. Something as simple as a trip to another work site can change the reporting requirements for a worker. If your staff isn’t familiar with the triggers that can cause these changes, they can fail to comply with the most current legislation. When that happens, fines, penalties, and back pay can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Expensive Errors

Over the past year, the CRA has drastically increased their compliance efforts. This means more audits, more time spent navigating bureaucracy, and more potential for fines and penalties. Once you’re involved in a CRA payroll tax audit, you’ll probably want to engage legal counsel. At current hourly rates, it won’t take long for a labour attorney to cost far more than a payroll service.

Payroll Peace of Mind

Engaging a payroll service can eliminate all of these problems and concerns. Their dedicated staff is focused on payroll, and payroll regulations, every single day. They have the education, training, and experience to maintain compliance with the most recent legislation. Many of them are involved in shaping upcoming legislation, so they can be prepared for changes before they even happen.

Using a payroll service allows your personnel to focus on tasks for which they are better suited, and which are more productive for your business. The payroll service can handle everything from employee queries to CRA audit preparation. With their professional CRA payroll tax services, you save time, aggravation, and avoid compliance issues.

7 Signs It's Time to Outsource Payroll

Topics: Payroll Service Provider, Outsourced Payroll Service, Payroll Tax Calculations, Payroll Tax in Canada, CRA Audit, Payroll Service, Payroll Calculator, CRA, CRA Payroll Tax, Payroll Deductions, CRA Compliant

The CRA is Watching – 5 Audit Red Flags

Posted by Stacey Duggan

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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

The Danger of Hiring Nothing But Independent Contractors

Posted by Stacey Duggan

|

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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