When filing your Canadian business tax return, you will need to list new computer purchases in the proper Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) classes. This should include any computer hardware/software, mobile devices, fax machines, printers, or related equipment and software the company purchased during the tax year in question.
For tax purposes, different types of office equipment and software depreciate at different rates, hence the different CCA classes. For example, applications software (such as Microsoft Office) depreciates at a rate of 100% per year, whereas systems software (such as Microsoft Windows) depreciates at a rate of 55% per year.
Why Software Depreciates at Different Rates
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considers some types of software to be of an "enduring" nature, meaning it may continue to be used for several years and therefore depreciate more slowly. For example, software for large photocopiers and fax machines has a depreciation allowance rate of 20%. Custom software you have paid to have developed or customized for your business activities also might depreciate at a slower rate.
Applications software, on the other hand, depreciates at a rate of 100% for the following reasons:
- Many applications are now wholly or partially cloud-based and require annual subscriptions.
- Desktop applications used for tax preparation or accounting typically require major changes from year to year and need replacing or updating.
Because they depreciate fully, such items often are deducted as expenses rather than as CCA assets. In addition to application software, many business users replace inexpensive mobile phones, laptops, or tablets every two years or so and record the entire amount as a business expense. There are no hard and fast rules for this, but for small amounts (less than $500) the CRA does not quibble with the practice. If you are in doubt, check with your accountant.
A business can claim only half the CCA allowable for some assets in the year of purchase. This is commonly referred to as the half-year rule. For example, if in the current tax year you purchased some applications software for your business, you would be able to claim CCA on only half the cost of it—not all.
Also, CCAs are cumulative and do not have to be claimed in a given year. You can claim part of a CCA, all of it, or none of it. If your business has a low-income year, you can save your CCA deductions for a subsequent year when your income is higher and the deduction will be more worthwhile.
Classes and Rates
This chart lists and defines the different CRA CCA classes and rates for computer equipment and software:
|8||Photocopiers and electronic communications equipment, such as fax machines and telephone equipment. Includes cell phones. The half-year rule applies.||20%|
|12||Computer application software (not systems software), including end-user applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, accounting software, tax preparation software, database programs, etc. Examples include Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. The half-year rule applies.||100%|
Data network infrastructure equipment that supports advanced telecommunication applications. It includes assets such as switches, multiplexers, routers, hubs, modems, and domain name servers that are used to control, transfer, modulate and direct data. The half-year rule applies. Does not include office equipment such as desktop telephones, cell phones, fax machines, copiers, or property such as wires, cables, or structures.
|50||General purpose computer equipment and systems software for that equipment. This includes desktop computers, tablets, server computers, storage devices, monitors, disk drives, cables, printers, and pre-installed system software that operates these devices. It does not include equipment "used mainly" as electronic process control systems (PCS) or monitor equipment, electronic communications control equipment, systems software for PCS or communications control equipment, or data handling equipment (other than data handling equipment that is ancillary to general-purpose electronic data processing equipment). Systems software is core software that provides services to end-user software. It typically applies to operating systems software such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. The half-year rule applies.||55%|
Government of Canada. "Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) Classes." Accessed Feb. 3, 2021.
Government of Canada. "Income Tax Folio S3-F4-C1, General Discussion of Capital Cost Allowance: Half-Year Rule, 1.38-1.40." Accessed Feb. 3, 2021.