How to Maximize Tax Deductions for Small Business (Canada)

Tax Deductions and Business Expenses for Canadian Businesses

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If you're like most sole proprietors, December 31st was your fiscal year end, and you're already sorting through your receipts, and making your preliminary income tax calculations for this year. But do you know how to maximize tax deductions for your small business? This article covers:

  • Keeping track of business-related receipts
  • Expenses related to the cost of doing business
  • Home business expenses

The follow-up article to this one, More Ways to Maximize Tax Deductions for Small Business, covers:

  • Automobile income tax deductions
  • Travel expenses
  • Employing your spouse or child
  • Advertising and other expenses

How to Maximize Tax Deductions for Small Business: The First Rule

The first rule for maximizing your deductions is to have all your business-related receipts. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) insists that all of your business expenses need to be backed up with receipts, so you have to collect them (and keep them for six years, as the CRA may want to look at them sometime).

Keeping track of all of these receipts throughout the year is the most difficult part of preparing to do your income taxes for many small business owners. Training yourself to always ask for a receipt, no matter how small the purchase, will avoid grief later.

You should also train yourself to look at your receipts when you first collect them and make sure the receipts show what they're for, as well as having a legible vendor's name and date. Illegible or incomplete receipts are a nightmare when it comes to inputting the receipt data into whatever record-keeping system you're using for accounting purposes - especially if you or your bookkeeper are trying to figure out what an incomplete receipt was for and record it months after the fact.

Getting into the habit of looking at your receipts as you collect them and making sure they contain all the required information in a legible fashion is a vital first step in maximizing your business income tax deductions. Learn how to keep your business receipts organized.

Maximize Tax Deductions: The Cost of Doing Business

The old adage "it takes money to make money" is certainly true when it comes to running a small business. Use this checklist to ensure that you're making the most of your potential tax deductions relating to the cost of doing business.

1) Have you deducted all of your business taxes, and business-related dues, memberships, and subscriptions?

No one forgets that business licensing fees or business taxes are deductible expenses, but sometimes people overlook some of the annual membership dues they pay to business-related organizations. If you're like most small business people, you belong to several - so make sure you're deducting all the appropriate fees on your Canadian income tax.

2) If you've borrowed money to run your business, have you deducted all the interest and all the related fees?

 The interest you pay on the money you borrowed to run your business is tax deductible. You can also deduct related fees, such as a fee you've paid to reduce the interest rate on your business loan, or a fee related to your purchase or improvement of a business property, if that's what the loan was for, including application, appraisal, and relevant legal fees. For more information on this tax deduction, see the Interest section of the Canada Revenue Agency's Business and Professional Income Guide.

3) Have you deducted all your insurance business expenses?

Although life insurance premiums aren't a permissible deduction, you can deduct the insurance premiums you've paid for insurance on the building(s), machinery or equipment you use in your business.

4) Have you deducted all your management and administration business expenses?

Whatever management and administration charges you've incurred over the past year are legitimate business expenses and legitimate income tax deductions, and this includes bank charges.

5) Have you deducted all your relevant maintenance and repair business expenses?

You can deduct the cost of the maintenance and/or repairs you've made to the property you use to earn income over the past year. In most cases, the full cost of both labor and materials will qualify for a small business tax deduction, unless you did the work yourself, in which case you'll only be able to deduct the cost of the materials on your income tax.

Read 7 Ways to Turn Your Home Into a Money-Making Property.

6) Have you deducted the full cost of all your office business expenses and supplies?

If you have a traditional office, the cost of all those paper clips, staplers, pens, and computer paper can really add up over the course of a year. Depending on your business, you may also have supply expenses, such as the cost of the film if you're a photographer, or the cost of drugs if you're a veterinarian. Generally, supplies are defined as items consumed indirectly to provide the goods or services a business provides. Keeping close, accurate count of your supplies and what they cost you can make a big difference to your final income tax bill.

Maximize Tax Deductions: Home Business Expenses

While many people run home businesses so they can work in a more congenial environment, or for family-related reasons, there are also home business tax deductions that home business owners should be aware of.

To qualify for deducting business expenses related to using a workspace for business in your home, your home must be your "principal place of business" or you must "use the space only to earn your business income, and you use it on a regular and ongoing basis to meet your clients, customers, or patients" (Business and Professional Income Guide, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)).

How much can you claim as a home business tax deduction?

The CRA advises taxpayers to "use a reasonable basis" to calculate the appropriate portion of home business expenses to claim; their formula of taking the area of the business workspace in your home and dividing it by the total area works well when calculating home business tax deductions.

Most Canadian tax software programs will automatically calculate the expense portions based on your personal/business workspace ratio.

Learn more about calculating the home-based business deduction.

Have you deducted your home utility costs?

Heat and electricity are eligible expenses. Make sure you keep your utility bills for the year.

Have you deducted an appropriate portion of all of your home maintenance costs?

Home maintenance costs include home and property repairs, but also, for instance, the cost of cleaning materials or a cleaning service. And what about house insurance? You can also deduct an appropriate portion of it as well.

If you own your home, have you deducted expenses related to home ownership?

For example, if you own your own home and are operating a home business, you can deduct a portion of your property taxes as a business expense. Your mortgage interest and capital cost allowance (CCA) will also be a tax deduction, if applicable. Using CCA (depreciation) on the business portion of your home should be discussed with your accountant, as it affects the principal residence exemption should you sell your residence in future.

The Canada Revenue Agency form T2125 contains a chart called "Calculation of business-use-of-home expenses" that you may find useful to figure out your allowable claim for home business income tax deductions.

How to Calculate Capital Cost Allowance.

Bear in mind that you cannot deduct an amount that's more than your net income from your business.

Home business owners, of course, can also claim any or all of the other small business tax deductions any other small business can claim if they're applicable to their particular business.

More Ways to Maximize Business Income Tax Deductions discusses other business expenses that may apply to your situation, such as auto expenses, conventions, and employing a child or spouse in your business.

See also: 10 Red Flags That Will Get Your Small Business a CRA Audit