Being a sole proprietor of a small business often means all your business-related tasks, including bookkeeping, fall solely onto your shoulders. And take note: most small business owners and sole proprietors must file a tax return by June 15, 2022. 

What Is a Sole Proprietor?

It’s the simplest type of business structure. Sole proprietorships are owned by one individual and are not incorporated. It’s cheaper and easier to start a sole proprietorship than a corporation, but one downside is that you also assume all the risks, which extends to your assets. That includes filing (and paying) your taxes on time and making sure you have the right tools, knowledge, and insurance to protect yourself. Here are seven basic tax tips to help:

A business owner calculating their tax bill

1. Understand If You Need to File

Even if your business didn’t make much money, is operating at a loss, or is currently inactive, you may still need to file a T1 return, including if you:

  • Disposed of a capital property or had a taxable capital gain
  • Have to make Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments on earnings
  • Want to access employment insurance (EI) special benefits
  • Received a demand from the government to file a return
  • Are claiming an income tax refund, a refundable tax credit, a GST/HST credit, or the Canada Child Benefit
  • Are entitled to receive provincial tax credits

2. Set Money Aside Throughout the Year

It may seem obvious, but if you are new to small business ownership, or if you operate a sole proprietorship in addition to a salaried position, you may be caught by surprise at how much you owe at the end of the year. Especially if you are used to having taxes and CPP payments deducted from your paycheck automatically.

Being a sole proprietor means you are responsible for figuring out your taxes and other payments owed. If you wait until tax time and don’t set money aside over the year, you may find yourself owing a large sum of money you cannot easily pay. It’s helpful to also budget for RRSP contributions, as these can offset the taxes you will owe.

And finally, you are also required to register for a GST/HST number once your business makes $30,000 or more in 12 months, so you need to set aside those payments too.

3. Be Prepared to Pay in Installments

A quick Google search will tell you that the deadline to pay taxes for small businesses this year was May 2, 2022, but that date is misleading for anyone who needs to pay their taxes in installments. For them, the deadlines start much earlier. According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you have to pay installments for 2021 if:

  • Your net tax owing for 2021 will be more than the threshold amount for your province or territory (which is anywhere from $1,800 to $3,000, depending on where you live)
  • Your net tax owing in either 2020 or 2019 was above the threshold for your province or territory

The CRA will send reminders when you need to pay income tax and GST/HST installments, but these are easy to miss, especially if they have an old address or email on file for you, so make sure you keep on top of it.

4. Don’t Delay If You Owe Money

If you were not required to pay in installments, the deadline for payment was on May 2, 2022. If you were required to pay in installments, the CRA had likely set installment deadlines to pay quarterly within the previous year. If you owe money and have still not paid your taxes by now, you are likely accruing interest on any balance owing.

If you don’t know exactly how much you owe, it’s better to estimate and send payment as soon as possible to minimize any interest charges. Estimate more than you think you owe. If you end up overpaying, you will get a refund once you file your taxes. If you need to adjust the amount declared on your T1 form, you can do so after receiving a notice of assessment from the CRA. 

5. Keep Track of Payments and Business Expenses

You are in for a long night if you wait until tax time to start looking through that shoebox full of receipts. And it will be easy to miss a lot of things.

Consider having a separate bank account and credit card for your business. Being diligent about using these only for business expenses and deposits will help keep things straight when sorting them later. 

Another tip is to list out your monthly expenses and payments so you will have a good sense of how much money you are making and spending (and will owe). Doing your taxes will be much easier, and with far less surprises. Read more of our accounting tips for small businesses here.

6. Know What You Can Deduct

One of the greatest benefits of working for oneself is the number of things you can deduct or “write off” – especially if you work out of your home. “Business use of home” expenses mean you can claim a portion of:

  • Your mortgage or rent
  • Home repairs
  • Home utilities like heat, water, etc.
  • Phone, internet
  • Your home insurance and taxes

Other things you can claim as a sole proprietor include:

  • Motor vehicle expenses (keep a logbook for business mileage)
  • Business parking, transit, travel, hotel rooms
  • Food and entertainment (if business-related)
  • Product inventory, office supplies, and other tools
  • Marketing, professional memberships, websites
  • Business advisories such as accountants, lawyers, courses, coaches
  • Office space rental and utilities
  • Business liability insurance

7. Know When and Where to Get Help

If you need direction on which specific forms you’ll need to submit for your business, the CRA has a list of these here to help you out.

It can be challenging to run a business by yourself, so don’t be afraid to call in an expert such as an accountant or even a tax lawyer if you find yourself being audited, owing money, or needing advice. Doing so will often pay for itself if the direction can save you money. Plus, it is a business expense, so you can also include it in your deductions.

Don’t Shoulder Risk Alone: Get Insured

As a sole proprietor, all the business and personal risk rests with you, so having the proper insurance to protect yourself is critical. Professional liability insurance is a good idea. Plus, if you are an online business, get cyber liability insurance.

Fill out an application for a free quote or speak to a licensed Zensurance broker for guidance on the type of business insurance you may need.

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7 Tax Filing Tips for Sole Proprietors

By |May 18th, 2022|

The deadline for Canadian sole proprietors and other small business owners to file tax returns is fast approaching. Find out what you can do now, and start doing for next year, to reduce your tax bill and avoid potential pitfalls.