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Small Business Guide to Hiring an Accountant

Posted by Roger Pierce Posted on 27 Aug 2018

What to look for when you hire your most important business advisor

An accountant is the most important supplier to your business. So selecting one should be done with great care and without rushing.

A great accountant can save your business money, identify revenue opportunities, reduce your stress and make your life a whole lot easier. A poor choice for accountant may end up costing your business money with mistakes and poor advice.

Follow these tips to find your ideal accountant.

1. Determine the level of service you require

You want an accountant who can meet the needs of your particular business. Consider these questions:

  • Will you do the bookkeeping, and hand files to your accountant to prepare year-end tax returns? Or, will you hire an independent bookkeeper to manage your monthly record-keeping in house, and file routine government paperwork?

  • Would you prefer your accountant handle it all? That level of service may affect price, but you may end up paying less money than you would by hiring a separate bookkeeper.

  • Do you want to meet with your accountant throughout the year to obtain business advice?

Focusing on what’s most important to your company will help you narrow the field so that you can get on with your accountant search.

2. Pay extra for long-term tax reducing strategies

A good accountant will find deductions to lower the amount of tax payable in a given year. A great accountant will develop tax-reducing strategies to save your business money for many years ahead. Expect to pay more for the latter service.

3. The right kind of industry experience

Every accountant will be familiar with standard business expense deductions (like rent, payroll and utilities). But your ideal accountant should be aware of tax credits that are geared towards your industry or type of business. For example, a transport company will prefer to work with an accountant who understands their particular industry.

4. Terrific business references

Don’t be shy about asking for references from your short list of accountants. Speak to an accountant’s past and current clients to understand the experiences of other business owners.

And pay attention to your own first impression – you’ll be working closely with your accountant, so you want to make sure you feel comfortable with the individual or firm you choose.

5. Make sure you can afford to pay your accountant

Expertise comes at a price – so be sure to understand how much your accountant will charge for:

  • Year-end returns

  • Bookkeeping services (unless you do the books yourself or hire a bookkeeper)

  • Business consultation & advice throughout the year

  • Tax planning.

Tip: Ask your accountant to invoice your business monthly to avoid paying a big invoice at tax time.

It can take time and some effort to find the right accountant for your business. Start your search long before you need one so you aren’t rushed into making a decision. And if you need help finding an accountant, ask your banker, lawyer and other business owners for referrals.


Private Company Tax Proposals

Posted by Derek de Gannes Posted on 03 Oct 2017

October 2, 2017 saw the end of the 75 day consultation period offered by the Department of Finance.  The public response to the proposed rule changes was significant with the general public, industry bodies and professional advisors all weighing in on the measures.  So, what now?

At a conference organized by the Canadian Tax Foundation which brought together members of the Department of Finance and tax advisors, Finance was unable to definitively identify their next steps, beyond reviewing the submissions made during the consultation period.  Many of the speakers at the event suggested the government take the time needed to get the changes right, rather than rushing through.  Suggestions included striking a royal commission, or similar group that broadly includes stakeholders – including Finance – to study the topics, define the problems, and find solutions that fit the problem.

Let’s hope at a minimum Finance modifies the proposed changes which currently would prevent the use of “pipeline planning” to prevent double taxation on the death of private company shareholders.  There were favourable comments at the conference around relaxing the rules as they may apply to existing estates such as possible grandfathering rules to allow the use of the existing law by estates which pre-date the July 18, 2017 effective date.

We wait and see – thanks for reading.

Principal Residence Exemption and Fire Loss

Posted by Derek de Gannes Posted on 05 Sept 2017


The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) was asked to comment on the availability of the principal residence exemption (PRE) when a previously occupied property is destroyed by fire and a decision is made to sell the property in a later year.

The taxpayer purchased a house in 2010 which was ordinarily inhabited as a principal residence.  In 2016, the house was completely destroyed by a fire and the taxpayer decided to move rather than rebuild.  It is the taxpayer’s intention to sell the vacant land in 2017.

The term “principal residence” is a defined term in the Income Tax Act (Canada) and provides the conditions which must be met for a property to qualify.  The definition is worded in such a way to include the land upon which the housing unit stands and any portion of the adjoining land that can reasonably be regarded as contributing to the use and enjoyment of the housing unit as a residence.  However, where the total area of the adjoining land exceeds 1/2 hectare, the excess is considered not to have contributed to the use and enjoyment of the housing unit as a residence unless the taxpayer establishes that it was necessary to such use and enjoyment.

In their view, the CRA would not consider the vacant land (that is, after the fire and before a 2017 sale) to have met the conditions for claiming the PRE.  However, with the one-plus rule in the formula used to calculate the PRE, it may be possible for the taxpayer to eliminate any capital gain arising on the sale of the vacant land in 2017.

Fair Tax Plan is Not Fair

Posted by Derek de Gannes Posted on 09 Aug 2017

When I was a child I would get together with kids in the neighborhood and we would play games like racing toy cars. Someone would call out the rules and the games would go for hours to the delight of our parents. On occasion one of the kids would do something that appeared to others as outside the rules which would be greeted with howls of protest “… not fair”. The game would break up and we would go our separate ways only to gather the next day to start a new game but not before going through the rules.

The Minister of Finance on July 18, 2017 introduced draft anti avoidance legislation that would significantly alter accepted practices to eliminate the double and sometime triple tax to occur on the death of an individual who owned shares of a private company on death. One of the practices, the pipeline method, relied on the the adjusted cost base in shares (created on a death) to extract assets from a private company without suffering the terminal tax liability all over again. The draft rules as written have both retroactive and prospective effect such that for deaths that occurred prior to July 18, 2017, the pipeline method is no longer available.

Imagine the uproar if you were an executor of an estate where the plan relied on the pipeline method and the rules were suddenly changed…. I say not fair. At a minimum there should be some sort of grandfathering with a sunset date to complete planning already in play.

If you are concerned with the fairness of Canada’s income tax system, you are encouraged to share your views and ideas about the proposals to address the tax planning strategies by either contacting your federal member of parliament or via email to

Stay tuned for more on this matter.

Capital Gains – Inclusion Rate Change on the Horizon?

Posted by Derek de Gannes Posted on 07 Mar 2017

As we head toward another federal budget to be released on March 22, there is much speculation about a change in the capital gain inclusion rate from 50% to 66.67% or 75%.

We have prepared an outline examining the impact of a change in the inclusion rate and encourage you to consider certain tax planning strategies to lock in the current 50% inclusion rate.

Current Capital Gain Tax

As the rules are currently written, only 50% of a capital gain is subject to tax in Canada. For an Ontario resident, the combined Federal and Ontario tax rate applicable to a high rate taxpayer is 26.8% which compares favourably to salary at 53.5% and non-eligible dividends at 45.3%. History has shown us when the gap between the capital gain and dividend tax rate is this great that a change is in order to narrow the gap.

Capital Gains Tax CrosswordOne way for the federal government to narrow the gap would be to increase the capital gain inclusion rate from 50% to 66.67% or possibly 75%. The rate increase is likely to translate into a tax increase on the capital gain of one-third or one half.

What You Can Do

You can lock in the current 50% inclusion rate by taking action before the 2017 Federal Budget is delivered. If you are not selling capital property in the very near term you could effect a sale to a related person and crystallize the capital gain at the current 50% inclusion rate.

There are a number of strategies available to fit your circumstances. The strategies are tax neutral and will not cause unnecessary tax if the speculation about a capital gain rate change is false.

Next Step

Your next step is consult a CW Partners LLP advisor to review the impact on you and your business and determine what action should be taken to lock in the current 50% inclusion rate. Should you decide to proceed with one of our strategies, we will provide all implementation instructions to you and your legal counsel; in addition, we will prepare and file all tax elections for a fee to be discussed before any work begins.

Book an appointment with one of our advisors here (Toronto) or here (Markham).

The content provided within this site is for general information purposes only, and should not be used or construed as a substitute for consultation with qualified professional advisors.