Archive for the ‘Tax’ Category

Wills & Estates – What’s Your Legacy Plan?

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It’s been said that nothing is as certain as death and taxes. As CPA’s we might add another certainty – tax implications after your death. However, being aware of the inevitable does not automatically prepare us for the inevitable.

Our experience has taught us that the legacy people leave for their loved ones can either be fair, sensible, and considerate; or one that results in confusion, confrontation, and chaos. What makes the difference? A desirable legacy plan starts with being accurately informed of your options and then taking the necessary steps to prepare a legally binding arrangement – before the unavoidable happens.

Being accurately informed first involves understanding the “lingo”. Many of us have heard terms like “Wills, Executors, Trustees and Estates”, but what do they all mean exactly? Here is a brief breakdown.

Wills

A Will sets out your wishes regarding all your belongings after your demise. There are many reasons why people hesitate to write their Wills. If something has been holding you back, think of what a Will accomplishes:

  • Safeguards guardianship for your beneficiaries of your most valuable belongings
  • Outlines your wishes, which takes some pressure off your already grieving family
  • Ensures specific people receive what you choose from your assets
  • Protects your business interests
  • Makes sure donations go to charities dear to your heart
  • And a lot more (Consulting a lawyer is also a MUST DO step)

It’s good to review your Will every 3-5 years. That said, while a Will is valuable, it works in harmony with many other important legal documents. However, a Will only controls what happens to assets that flow into your estate (i.e. assets not held jointly with another person who has rights of survivorship; insurance policies, registered accounts, and pension plan benefits without named beneficiaries, etc.).

Estates

Your Estate is the collection of assets and liabilities that legally flow under the terms of your Will into what amounts to a newly created separate entity.  That separate entity, called your Estate, is a separate taxpayer under our tax laws and has the obligation to follow the instructions contained in your Will, as carried out by your “Executor/Executrix”.  The Estate can be in existence for many years, or a short time depending on the instructions in your Will.  Choosing an Executor of your Will (who becomes the Trustee of your Estate) is likely one of the most important decisions you make in drawing up your Will.  Picking your best friend is often a first-choice, but it may not be the best idea. Think about this, if you pass at the ripe old age of 93 and your best friend is also older, leaving them this important and demanding job could be very stressful for them. It’s good to think carefully and discuss the implications frankly with the individual you are thinking of selecting.

Estate Plans

A common misconception is that Estate Plans are only for the extremely wealthy. If you own a car, a house, and have bank accounts – then you could benefit from an Estate Plan. It’s especially important to have an Estate Plan if you own a business, have minor children, have assets in foreign countries, or have any concerns that your Will may be contested by a relative, business associate, or a previous life partner.

An Estate Plan not only assures your assets are distributed with maximum tax benefits to the beneficiaries after your death but can also outline how to deal with your needs while you are still alive. For example, if because of health conditions you are unable to speak for yourself or make sound decisions, your Estate Plan can include a Power of Attorney or Living Will which speak for you or designate others to make decisions on your behalf.

An Estate Plan includes (among other things):

  • Your Last Will and Testament
  • Beneficiary designations – registered accounts
  • Transfers of property or financial assets (before death or under the terms of your Will)
  • Power of Attorney for Property (designated individual to take care of your finances)
  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care (designated individual to make medical decisions on your behalf)
  •  A “Living Will” (your written request regarding life-prolonging treatments)

This blog is meant clarify things, but this is not the entire story.  The easy part is understanding the “lingo”. The challenging part is implementing a plan as there are lots of critical decisions to be made. That’s where the professionals at SYC can help. We have used our knowledge and experience to help clients with Estate Plans for decades. We can work with you and your legal counsel to create a legacy plan that will give you peace of mind now and enable those you care about to remember you with fondness for years to come.

Retirement Planning – Be Future Ready!

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Contrary to popular belief, retirement planning should begin as soon as you start working. However, even if you are middle-aged or older, it’s never too late to start taking control of this important planning.

2020 is a sobering reminder of how unsettling not being prepared can feel. While we cannot prepare for everything life throws at us, there is much that is in our control. Retirement planning is a good example.

Here are some simple, yet important, questions to think about now as you plan for your retirement:

What is your retirement vision? Have you set goals?

  • What will you do with your new freedom?  Have you thought of short-term or long-term goals? Do you have a dream list? 
  • If you want to semi-retire, what part-time work makes sense for you? How much extra income would you like, or need, to make?
  • What post-retirement responsibilities will you have? Will you be supporting children, aging parents, or other family members?

Now for the elephant in the room: “How much money will you need?”

  • Consider your current lifestyle. What are your ACTUAL expenses monthly and annually? If you’re uncertain, start tracking them now – you may be surprised.
  • When budgeting, don’t forget the details – everything from vacations, to car purchases, to clothing.
  • Factor in inflation. 2020 is a good example of how prices rise each year.
  • Scope out big family events – upcoming weddings, anniversaries, etc.
  • Plan for unexpected costs, such as dental work, home and car repair, etc.
  • How is your present health? How long do you expect to live?

What will be your sources of income?

  • Consider whether you will be eligible for CPP, OAS, or employer-sponsored pension.
  • Review your existing investment portfolio such as RRSP/RRIF, TFSA, non-registered investment accounts and personal savings. Maximize savings now by investing early to take advantage of compound earnings.
  • If you are a business owner, how long will you be able to draw salaries or dividends from your corporation?

Tax planning questions

  • How can you minimize taxes during your retirement? Are your investments and other sources of income structured in the most tax-efficient manner?
  • Do you understand the differences between an RRSP, RRIF and TFSA, as well as their tax treatment in retirement?
  • When should you apply for benefits under CPP and OAS? Keep in mind, the age you start to receive CPP benefits will impact the amount of payment you will receive.
  • Are there specialized tax credits or tax planning available upon retirement?  For example, depending on your situation, you may be able to share CPP and split pension income with your spouse.

Wondering where to start, or how to move forward?

Feeling confused is totally understandable! During this COVID crisis investment portfolios were severely impacted, but then bounced back strongly. Many who had plans to retire may have decided to postpone their plan, while others were forced into retirement due to layoffs. Other Canadians are simply not ready because of large debts, or insufficient savings. Even Canadians who have been diligent savers simply don’t know where to begin when it comes to retirement planning.

Have no fear – SYC is here! We have been providing retirement planning services for years. So if your goal is to be “future ready”, don’t delay! Call one of our team members and take the first step.

HEADS UP – CEWS Eligibility Has Been Expanded!

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As we mentioned in our July blog, the Canadian government recently extended the CEWS subsidy program until December 19, 2020. Along with the extension, they have dramatically expanded the eligibility requirement for the subsidy. Employers who have not qualified in the past may now be eligible under the new requirements.

Eligibility Update

The latest eligibility rules remove the 30% revenue reduction threshold requirement. This means that any employer that is experiencing a revenue reduction may now qualify for the subsidy even if the reduction is less than 30%. Before you begin calculating, please remember:

  • The CEWS subsidy application is done separately each month and the revenue reduction must be determined each time.
  • Revenue reduction is determined by comparing the monthly revenue for the subsidy period to a number of other data points and this is what provides more complexity, but more opportunity as well.

If you think you may qualify for the CEWS subsidy program under the new requirements, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

Income Tax Payment Deadlines Extended AGAIN!

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The New Payment Deadline is now September 30, 2020!

The CRA initially extended the payment deadlines for individual, corporate and trust income tax returns to September 1, 2020. The CRA has now extended the payment deadlines once again to September 30, 2020.

That means the CRA will waive any late filing penalties and interest for returns filed after their normal filing deadline – as long as you file the return and pay the taxes owing the return by September 30, 2020. This includes any elections, forms and schedules that are to be filed with the return (i.e. T106, T1135).

The CRA is also waiving any arrears interest on existing tax debts related to individual, corporate, and trust tax returns from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. For GST/HST returns from April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020. (NOTE: This does not include penalties and interest incurred prior to this period.)

In the case of financial difficulties, it’s still important to file the return by September 30 to avoid an additional 5% late filing penalty on top of what you may already owe. In fact, the CRA is still encouraging Canadians to file their income tax returns as soon as possible even though the deadlines have been extended. We agree! Let’s get this done!

Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – Further Extension Announced

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The Canadian government has announced an extension to the CEWS subsidy. Eligible employers will now be able to claim this subsidy until December 19, 2020. We thought it appropriate to give you a heads up as they have also announced proposed changes to the CEWS as follows:

  • Starting with the July 5 to August 1 reporting period (Period 5), new rules will be in place to allow for possible eligibility to employers who previously did not meet the 30% revenue reduction threshold.
  • The previous CEWS subsidy will be replaced with a two-part subsidy. There will be a “base” amount and a “top-up” amount. The top-up amount will apply to employers who are experiencing a 50% or greater revenue decline.
  • Under the new rules, the amount of the wage subsidy an eligible employer could qualify for would vary depending on their revenue decline. Where the revenue decline is less than 30%, the subsidy falls in proportion.
  • Interestingly, this proposal included an option for employers to apply under the previous rule for July and August (Periods 5 and 6) should the amount of the CEWS subsidy received result in a larger amount under the old rules compared to the new rules. 
  • New continuity rules are in place for employers that have recently purchased assets of a business.
  • There will be a CEWS appeal process and an extension to the subsidy application deadline.
  • The legislative proposals also include previously announced measures for the subsidy affecting employers with a paymaster arrangement, amalgamated corporations, tax exempt trusts, and seasonal employees.
  • The draft legislation further includes previously tabled measures to allow the government to temporarily extend or suspend certain federal statutory deadlines and time limits (i.e. tax filing and payment deadlines) up to December 31, 2020.

Clear as mud? Based on our first read through the new rules, they are by far more complex than what we had before, but ultimately perhaps “fairer”. We are going to need time to fully absorb how all of this works and will be issuing additional guidance when we feel we understand this better.

In terms of urgency and timing, we are presently in Period 5 of the subsidy which ends August 1, so no applications for Period 5 can be processed until after that time. Until then, we will monitor any updates and do our best to keep you posted as things are clarified by the Government of Canada.

COVID-19 Home Office Expenses – What You Need to Know

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COVID-19 has resulted in many learning curves for 2020. For example, some of us are working from home for the first time. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve been asked by many clients if and how they can claim home office expenses.

As you would imagine, it’s tricky. Here’s what you need to know.

Definition of home office space

First, you must meet the qualifications of a home office space according to the Government of Canada, which is that it must be:

  1. Used principally (“principally” meaning “more than 50% of the time”) for the performance of office or employment duties. It can be any place in the home such as a kitchen or dining room, OR
  2. Used exclusively during the period to which the expenses relate, to earn employment income, and on a regular and continuous basis, used for meeting clients* or other persons in the ordinary course of performing the employment duties.

*It is the CRA’s view that “ ‘meeting customers or other persons’ as used in subsection 8(13) of the Income Tax Act includes only face to face encounters”. That said, we believe that video calls and phone calls constitute a “meeting” with clients in the context of the work-at-home COVID-19 scenario.

Employer responsibility

Once you have determined that you qualify, your employer must provide a signed T2200 Condition of Employment form which outlines the type of expenses that can be claimed as part of the employment contract.  

What you can claim

It starts to get tricky at this point. Here are some of the more common expenses incurred while working from home – but as you see – not all are claimable expenses. (Due to the pandemic, we will not cover expenses related to meals, entertainment, and travel costs). 

How much of the “Home expenses” you can claim 

Now you will need to calculate the proportionate business usage. There is no specific rule, it can be based on either:

  • Square footage of the workspace as a percentage of the overall square footage of the home; OR
  • Calculated based on business hours used as a percentage of total hours for mixed used home office. For example, if the business hours are 9:00 am to 5:30 pm for five days a week for 36 weeks, the business usage for year 2020 would be 15.45% (37.50/ 168 hours per week x 36/52 weeks).  

Whatever approach you choose, it must be reasonable. You must also be able to provide CRA your supporting documentation (such as the workspace home floor plan and bills) if they should ask. In addition, the home office expense deduction is limited to the amount of employment income.  Any unused deductions (although unlikely) can be carried forward and deducted against future employment income.   

Special COVID-19 reimbursement for 2020

To assist the transition to home office, CRA allows a special rule for an employee to receive up to $500 for a reimbursement from the employer for the purchase of a computer used primarily for the benefit of the employer.  This reimbursement is not taxable to the employee.   

We hope this blog has helped flattened the learning curve as you get yourself organized to work from home. If you need any more information, don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Disclaimer: Information is based on existing tax law as at July 2020, subject to CRA changes/updates on claiming any home office expenses.    

The 75% Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – EXTENDED to August 29, 2020

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As we outlined in our April 9 blog, a Canadian employer whose business has been affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). On Monday, May 15, the Government of Canada announced that this subsidy (which has been available from March 15, 2020) has now been extended an additional 12 weeks, to August 29, 2020.

The current eligibility criteria for the subsidy will apply to the current June period (period 4). It is possible that the criteria will be different in period 5 (July 2020) and/or period 6 (August 2020). We will keep you posted as the government releases the updates.

*Whatever Baseline Revenue option you used to date will be the method you are locked into for entire period of the subsidy.

Finding Your Money in Unexpected Places

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Most of us are guilty of shoving cash in our pant’s pockets, purses or jackets and then totally forgetting about it. Then, one day we put on a pair of jeans we have not wore in a while and “voila” – 20 bucks we forgot about. NICE! Finding money unexpectedly, regardless of the amount, is one of life’s simple pleasures.

This year we learned of another way you could find more of your lost money, and it may surprise you! Each year the Government of Canada issues payments to Canadians in the form of refunds, credits, or benefits. Believe it or not, some of these payments have gone uncashed by Canadians! Some may have been lost, stolen or in some other way just have never made it to you. In fact, according to the Government of Canada’s website:

“As of May 2019, approximately 5 million Canadians had an estimated 7.6 million uncashed cheques with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), dating back to 1998.”

Are you one of those Canadians with an unclaimed refund? Find out today by checking out the new “Uncashed Cheque” feature that the Government of Canada introduced in February 2020. To search for your “lost treasure”, you will need to open “My Account for Individuals” with CRA. CRA has excellent on-line guidance on how to set up your personal account. If you do have an uncashed cheque waiting for you, you are allowed to request a reissued payment from My Account. From My Account, you will find the option to apply in the right menu bar (see example).

Going forward, here are a couple easy ways to ensure you never miss a refund:

Our best wishes as you search and perhaps find all that is yours!

COVID-19 Updates to Important Subsidy Programs

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“75%” Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

The Federal government has passed into law the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) as well as the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy.  As we noted before, the CEWS provides for an amount to employers equal to 75% of employees’ remuneration paid, up to a maximum of $847 per week per employee, from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020.

Employers that qualify for the CEWS in one period will now automatically qualify for the NEXT claiming period.  See our April 8, 2020 Blog for the details on the revenue reduction qualification thresholds. 

It’s important to note that where an employee’s pre-crisis wages were below the threshold of $58,700 the CEWS does in fact provide a subsidy of 75% of the pre-crisis’ wages. In the event that post-crisis wages for that employee are reduced, the CEWS in effect starts to provide a subsidy that is greater than 75%. Read details of this program here.

Remember that for the employers who don’t qualify for the CEWS, the 10% Temporary Subsidy may be available to them – see our April 2, 2020 Blog.


Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

An important criticism of this program was the eligibility criteria of requiring 2019 total payroll between $50,000 and $1M.  In response, the government has widened the eligibility range so that employers with payrolls in calendar 2019 of between $20,000 and $1.5M are now eligible.  The commercial banks are managing this program, and we have seen these loans be processed within about 5-7 banking days after applications were completed. Read details of this program here.


Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

On April 15, the government announced changes to the eligibility rules of this program as follows:

•    Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.

•    Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.

•    Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

Read details of this program here.


National Research Council IRAP Innovation Assistance Program

This program assists start-ups during the COVID-19 crisis as follows:

•    This program is for small and medium-sized enterprises with less than 500 employees in the innovation industry. You may qualify if you are in the pre-revenue, high growth, enterprise SaaS and tech space.

•    The focus is on labour costs (i.e. salaries and benefits) with the goal of helping companies retain highly skilled labour. The scale of support is based on the number of skilled labourers.

•    There will be $250 million funding with built-in scalability components. The funding is not tied to COVID-19.

•    If you qualify for the wage subsidy and take advantage of the 75% wage subsidy, you do not qualify for this program.

•    Speaking with the ITA Advisor is required as part of the application process. Unlike the typical IRAP application, this program will not look at the tech component.

COVID-19 Support for Canadian Businesses -April 8, 2020 “75%” CEWS Update and More

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Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

On April 1, 2020 the government provided details on the 12-week wage subsidy. The subsidy is 75% of annual employee salary, up to an annual salary of $58,700 for a maximum weekly subsidy of $847. Here are some new important details.

Eligibility update

As of April 8, 2020, the CEWS subsidy will be available to eligible employers who have a gross revenue reduction of at least 15% in March 2020 and a 30% reduction in April or May 2020.

How to calculate decrease in revenue

To measure the revenue loss/reduction, the employer has two broad options:

  1. Compare the current month in 2020 to the same month in 2019; or
  2. Compare the current month in 2020 to an average of their revenue for January and February 2020.

Once you pick the method as noted above, you must stay with this method for entire period of the subsidy.

Accounting method options

Employers would be allowed to calculate their revenues under the accrual method or the cash method, but not a combination of both. Employers would select an accounting method when first applying for the CEWS and would be required to use that method for the entire duration of the program.

How much is the subsidy and who else does it apply to?

Employers will also be eligible for a subsidy of up to 75% of salaries and wages paid to new employees.

The subsidy amount for a given employee on eligible remuneration paid for the period between March 15 and June 6, 2020 would be:

Special rules apply to wages paid to non-arm’s length employees (like employers and their family members), provided they were employed prior to March 15, 2020. The subsidy will be limited to the eligible remuneration paid in any pay period between March 15 and June 6, 2020, up to a maximum benefit of:

There continues to be no overall limit on the subsidy amount that an eligible employer may claim.


You Must Apply for A My Business Account NOW!

Without this special access account, you will NOT be able to apply for this subsidy.

If you are not sure whether you have a “My Business Account”, then you probably DON’T have one. It will take an investment of time and patience but it is mandatory for the application process. Here are some helpful reminders to get you started:

  1. First, figure out whose SIN will be associated with your corporate tax accounts with the CRA – likely the person who is currently a Director and major shareholders in the business. Then gather personal information on that person – you will need the 2018 personal tax return for that person in front of you as you move through this process.
  2. Watch this video – https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/cra-multimedia-library/businesses-video-gallery/register-mybusiness-account.html
  3. Go to this website https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-businesses/business-account.html 
  4. At the bottom of that page start with “Register CRA” – in purple print .to begin the process.
  5. You cannot complete the process without receiving your security code. Regardless of what the video says about mail or e-mail options of getting this code, it ONLY comes by snail mail at this time. You will need to wait about 5-10 mailing days to obtain the security code and then you must return to the website to complete the registration process.

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