The high tax cost of divorce & separation

The financial effects of splitting up are bad enough. Wait until tax enters the picture.
There are 71,000 divorces in Canada each year, and more than 40% of marriages end in divorce. That’s less than the U.S. divorce rate of 46%. (The Swedes, meanwhile, have the highest rate, 55%.) There are multiple reasons for divorce: communications breakdowns, infidelity, midlife crisis, abuse and financial issues.
Those financial problems can be exacerbated when there’s trouble with the tax man. Unfortunately, people who separate don’t always understand the rules for reporting income, assets and expenses. It’s worse if a couple isn’t communicating.
They need not be legally or formally separated for their tax status to change. A couple is considered separated if they cease cohabitation for at least 90 days. When they separate, each will be taxed as an individual and income and assets will be separated. Many expensive failures can follow relationship breakdown.

Support for spouses. Support payments made to spouses or common-law partners are taxable to recipients and deductible by payors. However, in the year of separation or divorce, a payor may claim either the deduction for support or the spousal amount: not both. The only way to avoid this tax status is to receive a lump sum, in which case payments are neither deductible nor taxable.
Spouses receiving the taxable amount may be unprepared to pay tax when a large balance due is due April 30. They may need to pay quarterly installment payments on the income the tax year after it’s first paid and reported. This should be discussed before separation or divorce papers are finalized to ensure the net tax result intended is actually paid and received.
Support for children. For all agreements or court orders after May 1997, child support payments are not taxable to recipients or deductible by payors. For tax purposes, any support stipulated in agreements or court orders is deemed to be child support if not identified as spousal support.
Complications arise if support payments are in arrears. Arrears payments are deemed child support payments until child support is current. Subsequent payments are considered spousal support payments, taxable to recipients and deductible to payors.
This example shows how it works. Say Martin lost his job in 2013 and couldn’t keep up with his support payments. He was required to pay $500 a month in spousal support and $1,000 a month in child support. For the year, he paid $15,000. For income tax purposes, the $15,000 he paid in the year is deemed $12,000 child support and $3,000 spousal support. He can deduct only $3,000 of the $15,000 and his ex-wife is required only to report $3,000 as income from spousal support.
Separating assets.
Attribution rules don’t apply to assets transferred as a result of separation, providing the couple continues to live apart. The new owner of the property after relationship breakdown is responsible for all tax on earnings and capital appreciation (depreciation) of the property. The cost base at which assets are transferred is important because it determines how future gains and losses from taxable investments will be calculated.
Spousal RRSPs.
Spousal RRSP contributions will no longer be allowed. While the couple is together, withdrawals from spousal or common-law partner RRSPs made by the annuitant are reportable by contributing spouses if RRSP contributions have been made in the current or previous two years. This rule is waived for separated/divorced couples.

RRSP accumulations. Funds in RRSPs may be rolled over tax-free to ex-spouses if the parties are living apart and payments follow a written separation agreement, court order, decree or judgment. Transfers must be made directly between the RRSPs of the spouses: one spouse can’t be disqualified because of age (over age 71). The same rules for tax-free transfer of funds apply to RRIF accumulations.
TFSA accumulations.
These can be split tax-free. Funds from one party’s TFSA may be transferred tax-free to the other’s TFSA. This does not affect contribution room of either party.
Principal residence.
After separation, CRA recognizes two family units, so each can own one tax-exempt principal residence.
Other property. Transfer of depreciable property used in business or a rental property takes place at the Undepreciated Capital Cost of the property. So no recapture, terminal loss or capital gain takes place on the transfer. For other capital property, transfers takes place at the Adjusted Cost Base of the assets, enabling a tax-free rollover.

The bottom line?
Separation and divorce are expensive and complicated. Filing tax returns to the best benefit of the family unit is harder, too. Minimize the financial impact by consulting with a tax and financial professional to get the best after-tax results in a difficult circumstance.

Why Small Businesses Fail: Top 7 Reasons for Startup Failure

Business failure isn’t something you want to think about when you start a business. But according to the SBA, about one-fifth of business startups fail within a year. Here are 7 reasons why small businesses fail and the ways your business can avoid failing.
According to statistics published in 2017 by the Small Business Administration (SBA), about one-fifth of business startups fail in the first year and about half of all employer establishments fail within five years. Only about one third survive ten years or more.
Those statistics are rather grim. And while there are a multitude of conditions that can result in a business failing, most small companies that go out of business make similar mistakes.

Here are the top seven reasons for business failure and what you can do to avoid them.

Why Small Businesses Fail

1. You start your business for the wrong reasons

The reason for business failure is often tied to the reason the owner started the business. Is your primary reason for starting your own business the desire to make a lot of money? Do you think that if you have your own business that you’d have more time with your family? Or maybe that you wouldn’t have to answer to anyone else? While those are benefits some successful entrepreneurs achieve after years of hard work, they are not reasons to start a business.
The right reasons for starting a business – reasons that lead to building a successful company include these:
  • You have a passion and love for what you’ll be doing, and strongly believe — based on educated study and investigation — that your product or service would fulfill a real need in the marketplace.
  • You have drive, determination, patience and a positive attitude. When others throw in the towel, you are more determined than ever.
  • Failures don’t defeat you. You learn from your mistakes, and use these lessons to succeed the next time around. Studies of successful business owners have shown they attributed much of their success to “building on earlier failures;” on using failures as a “learning process.”
  • You thrive on independence, and are skilled at taking charge when a creative or intelligent solution is needed. This is especially important when under strict time constraints.
  • You like — if not love — your fellow man, and show this in your honesty, integrity, and interactions with others. You get along with and can deal with all different types of individuals.

2. Poor Management

Many a report on business failures cites poor management as the number one reason for failure. New business owners frequently lack relevant business and management expertise in areas such as finance, purchasing, selling, production, and hiring and managing employees. If the business owner doesn’t recognize what they don’t do well, and seek help, the company many fail and go out of business. To remedy the problem, small business owners can educate themselves on skills they lack, hire skilled employees, or outsource work to competent professionals.
Neglect of a business can also be its downfall. Care must be taken to regularly study, organize, plan and control all activities of its operations. This includes the continuing study of market research and customer data, an area which may be more prone to disregard once a business has been established.
A successful manager is also a good leader who creates a work climate that encourages productivity. He or she has a skill at hiring competent people, training them and is able to delegate. A good leader is also skilled at strategic thinking, able to make a vision a reality, and able to confront change, make transitions, and envision new possibilities for the future.

3. Insufficient Capital

A common fatal mistake for many failed businesses is having insufficient operating funds. New business owners often don’t understand cash flow or underestimate how much money they will need for startup and they are forced to close before they have had a fair chance to succeed. They also may have an unrealistic expectation of incoming revenues from sales.
It is imperative to ascertain how much money your business will require; not only the costs of starting, but the costs of staying in business. It is important to take into consideration that many businesses take a year or two to get going. This means you will need enough funds to cover all costs until sales can eventually pay for these costs. A business startup calculator will help you predict how much money you’ll need to launch your business.

4. Location, Location, Location

Your college professor was right — location is critical to the success of most local businesses. Whereas a good business location may enable a struggling business to ultimately survive and thrive, a bad location could spell disaster to even the best-managed enterprise.
Some factors to consider:
  • Where your customers are
  • Traffic, accessibility, parking and lighting
  • Location of competitors
  • Condition and safety of building
  • Local incentive programs for business start-ups in specific targeted areas
  • The history, community flavor and receptiveness to a new business at a prospective site

5. Lack of Planning

Anyone who has ever been in charge of a successful major event knows that were it not for their careful, methodical, strategic planning — and hard work — success would not have followed. The same could be said of most business successes.
It is critical for all businesses to have a business plan. Many small businesses fail because of fundamental shortcomings in their business planning. It must be realistic and based on accurate, current information and educated projections for the future.
Components should include:
  • Description of the business, vision, goals, and keys to success
  • Market analysis
  • Work force needs
  • Potential problems and solutions
  • Financial: capital equipment and supply list, balance sheet, income statement and cash flow analysis, sales and expense forecast
  • Analysis of competition
  • Marketing, advertising and promotional activities
  • Budgeting and managing company growth
In addition, most bankers request a business plan if you are seeking to secure addition capital for your company.

6. Over expansion

A leading cause of business failure, over expansion often happens when business owners confuse success with how fast they can expand their business. A focus on slow and steady growth is optimum. Many a bankruptcy has been caused by rapidly expanding companies.
At the same time, you do not want to repress growth. Once you have an established solid customer base and a good cash flow, let your success help you set the right measured pace. Some indications that an expansion may be warranted include the inability to fill customer needs in a timely basis, and employees having difficulty keeping up with production demands.

If expansion is warranted after careful review, research and analysis, identify what and who you need to add in order for your business to grow. Then with the right systems and people in place, you can focus on the growth of your business, not on doing everything in it yourself.

7. No Website and No Social Media Presence

Simply put, if you have a business today, you need a website and a social media presence. Period.
In the U.S. alone, the number of internet users (approximately 88.5 percent of the population) and e-commerce sales ($394.9 billion in 2016 according to the US Census Bureau) continue to rise and are expected to increase with each passing year.
At the very least, every business should have a professional looking and well-designed website that enables users to easily find out about their business and how to avail themselves of their products and services. If you serve local customers, your website should include your address, phone number and hours of operation, and should be listed in Google My Business so it will show up when shoppers search for what you sell by location. (Ex: “Italian restaraunts near me”) Even if you don’t have customers come to your place of business and/or you get most of your business through networking and referrals, you need a website so potential customers can research your business before they call you. If you don’t have a website and your competitors do, you’ll lose out.
You need to have social media profiles on the services your clientele are most likely to use for the same reason. If you don’t, you won’t look professional and will lose business to competitors who do at least have profiles on popular social media sites.
If you have products that can be sold online, or you can take orders online, that’s an added benefit. But at bare minimum, you need a website that lets customers know what you offer and how they benefit by doing business with you.

When it comes to the success of any new business, you — the business owner — are ultimately the “secret” to your success. For many successful business owners, failure was never an option. Armed with drive, determination, and a positive mindset, these individuals view any setback as only an opportunity to learn and grow. Most self-made millionaires possess average intelligence. What sets them apart is their openness to new knowledge and their willingness to learn whatever it takes to succeed.

Characteristics of successful entrepreneurs

A great number of new businesses are founded and registered every year, however, few will go on to become hugely successful. Although there are many factors which can affect the success of a business startup, an influential one, particularly in the early stages, is the character of the entrepreneur. As the driving force and visionary behind your business, your personal attributes can have a large impact upon your business’s success. Let’s take a look at some traits that successful business leaders and CEOs tend to share.


As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to cope with rejections and setbacks without getting disheartened. Business is competitive and if you can’t develop thick skin and resilience, it is unlikely you will persevere through (inevitable) tough times and come out stronger. Learning from the difficulties you face and persisting are key attributes for succeeding.
Example: When Walt Disney worked at a newspaper, his editor told him he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. Had he not persevered, he would have missed out on 22 Academy Awards and becoming a household name.

Relationship building

Being able to build strong, positive relationships with business partners, investors and your staff is key for getting the best from them. People are much more willing to work hard for someone they like than someone they don’t. A study reported in Harvard Business Review – conducted over 10 years on upwards of 2700 business executives – found being able to build ‘deep, trusting relationships’ was the attribute most likely to determine CEO’s success or failure.

Example: Known for being charismatic, hands-on and open, Richard Branson is a good example here. He recently blogged, “friendliness is a huge positive – and it will take you more places in life and in business than being argumentative and uncaring ever will”.

Care and share

Going hand-in-hand with relationship building, it is important that you care about your organisation and staff, and share your success. Prioritising your company’s needs over your own and holding yourself to the same standards as everyone else sends a strong, positive message to your staff that you care and are ‘in it together’. What’s more, magnanimous, respected leaders will share victories but acknowledge and take ownership of failures, without passing the buck.

Example: Mark Zuckerberg is often quick to acknowledge and take responsibility for Facebook failings or controversies and is known for working shoulder-to-shoulder with his staff with no grand executive office or special treatment.

Don’t settle

Tenacity and a drive to keep on bettering your business is vital for continued growth and success. Even if your business is flourishing, getting complacent or settling for your current state won’t see you reach your full potential and can become a downfall – you can guarantee your competitors won’t be resting on their laurels. Continued ambition and thinking big can take you far.
Example: An insatiable urge to move forward on to bigger and better things is common in successful CEOs. Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, puts this as, “the most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.”

Surround yourself with talent

You could have a fantastic business idea but without the right team of people behind you, you wouldn’t be able to get it off the ground. A good business leader will be able to find the people that their business needs, where their expertise is lacking, and delegate tasks efficiently. Whether it’s a creative marketing mind or the aid of an accountant to keep your books balanced, seeking help and effectively scouting talent will help you create a high-achieving team.
Example: Steve Jobs personally interviewed thousands of applicants when on the search for the best and brightest additions to the Apple business, often scouting for talented candidates in new, atypical ways.

Signs you need to hire a small business accountant

Unless you run an accounting practice, there is a very good chance that you didn’t start your business with hopes of filing T2s and managing your basic accounting program. You could be missing out on big accounting insights that only an expert financial professional can glean. Be on the lookout for these six signs that you should hire a small business accountant.

1. Your small business is booming

One of the best times to be a business owner is when you’re growing. Finding additional revenue streams or watching existing streams become revenue rivers is exhilarating. However, with increased revenue comes increased accounting obligations, like taxes. Small business accounting services can help you grow, and manage your growth, whether you’re experiencing a steady, continuous climb, or you’re in the midst of an overnight explosion of sales.
To a small business owner, growth can be hypnotizing. A growing business may boast more sales revenues, but what about the behind-the-scenes factors at play? More sales revenue usually means a higher cost of goods sold (COGS), and more payroll and tax. Professional small business accounting services can help you forecast revenue, find projected cash flow, avoid unnecessary tax burdens, and help you successfully and wisely spend your revenue in investments so your business can continue to boom.

Plus, an accountant can also caution you about harmful business purchases. Their reports could prevent you from making a regrettable investment. Increased sales with their increased variable costs to your business may turn out to be not much of an increase after all. Accountants can help you run ratios that show you if your boom is truly a boom, or just feels like it.

2. You’re launching a startup

Getting off to a good start can make or break your small business. Because your early financial choices can echo well into the future of your company, many small business owners hire an accountant to serve as an expert adviser and to guide key financial decisions. An accountant can help you choose between the types of business structures, which determines how you file and deposit taxes, and can also guide you in your hiring processes. In the early stages of your business, you may not need to have full-time employees. Perhaps contractors would work better? That decision alone can create a massive difference in your projected budget and payroll structure. In fact, it’s the difference between having and not having a payroll! No matter what you choose, an accountant will make sure you adhere to those not-so-subtle government regulations meant for your chosen business structure and type of worker. This is important since breaking tax code and business regulations can result in hefty fines that your cash-strapped startup may not be able to cover.

3. You’re creating a business plan

One of the major benefits of a business plan is how it can help you raise and secure capital for your small business. However, if you don’t know what investors or banks are looking for, you might not include the key information they want to see. Since many investors, and certainly banks, will have their own accountants advise them before they inject money into your business dreams, it’s wise to have someone on your team who speaks their language. This is where an accountant can really help your small business.

Your business plan will include financial reports and projections. A good business plan will talk about your potential return on assets (ROA), your planned use of profit, projected operating budgets, and many key financial ratios. Depending on the nature of your business, some of those ratios will matter more than others. An accountant can help you create, understand, and present your business’s financial figures in an accessible and confident way.

4. Taxes are a mystery to you

A mistake on your taxes could mean fines, audits, and possibly the end of your business. IRS penalties are costly, and if you’re not familiar with business tax codes, you also could overlook small business tax deductions that increase your refund. If taxes are a mystery to you, an accountant can help you make sense of it all. They can also help you estimate, file, and deposit taxes for you. Spending money on a good accountant means you run less risk of missing a payment to the government, or missing out on a chance to receive one from them.

5. You are being audited

When CRA audit red flags arise from bookkeeping errors, you could be in financial and legal trouble. If your company gets audited, all your financial history is exposed. A small business accountant can review your financial records and make sure they are accurate and up to code. Then they can check for missing information, reconcile accounts, and run reports that demonstrate your compliance.

6. You’re considering investments

What is depreciation going to look like on your income statement at the end of the year? When your business is ready to expand and purchase new assets, like equipment or a building, an accountant can help you decide how you’ll depreciate those assets over time in order to make get the maximum tax benefit against your investment. An accountant can also help you decide where to purchase your assets, as some states and localities may offer key incentives or tax credits as an investment inducement. Accountants aren’t financial planners; the role of financial planners is more tactical and involves giving you the pros and cons of possible investments. Another way to put this is, accountants can “run the numbers” for you to help you understand the value of an investment, both on the front end and over the projected life of your business. This kind of business understanding is key for strategically growing a sustainable business.

10 reasons your small business needs an accountant

One of the most exciting things about managing a small business on your own is the ability to be in control of every operation. However, as the business grows, it can be a bit daunting to juggle multiple roles. This is why you need the help of an accountant. Here are the top 10 reasons why the expertise and knowledge of an account can be invaluable to your company:


1. Creating a Business Plan
Trained to use special types of accounting software, an accountant is capable of adding financial projections and other reports fast and efficiently. This means that if you involve the help of a professional accountant, you are assured of getting a business plan that will increase the likelihood of business success.
2. You Need Help With Your Finances
Unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge, doing accounting on your own can complicate things for your business. You may end up losing control of your debtors and creditors or make costly financial mistakes. Hiring an accountant can help you get back on track.


3. Taking on a Franchise
Buying a franchise is one of the most effective ways of starting a small business. This is because the franchise company gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and gives you all the relevant marketing, sales, and brand support you can possibly ask for. A professional accountant will help you confirm the validity and sustainability of a franchise as well as the possible related charges and income.
4. Buying and Selling a Business
To get into business, you can either start a company from scratch or buy an already established business that’s up and running. If you are thinking of buying an existing business, it is important to consult an accountant. The accountant will go through the company’s accounts and make sure that everything is in order.
If you have been running your business for years and would like to sell it due to one reason or another, you will also need the help of an accountant. The accountant will help you put your financial records in order and create clear statements of accounts to show prospective buyers.
5. Guidance on Your Company’s Legal Structure
Every business has its own unique business structure. Whether you are running a limited company, a limited liability partnership, or a private business, you should look for an accountant to explain to you the legal structures of the business and help you choose wisely.


6. Auditing
As a requirement, your business may need to be audited once it gets to a certain size or turnover. Since auditing is stressful, expensive, and time-consuming, you should hire an accountant to help you go through the experience smoothly. He will guide you adequately through the auditing process and make sure that you comply with all the relevant audit laws.
7. Dealing with the Government Requirements
As your business expands, you will have to deal with plenty of tax and regulatory paperwork. You need to hire an accountant to help you comply with all tax and regulatory requirements.
8. Applying for a Business Loan
When banks or other financial institutions lend money, they are interested in knowing how they’ll get their money back. An accountant can convince any financial institution that you have the ability to repay the loan by presenting relevant figures and projections.
9. Delegation
The more your business continues to grow, the more you focus your mind on how to take it forward. Hiring an accountant to manage some of the financial elements gives you more time to concentrate on other business operations.


10. Business Growth
If your business is growing at an unexpected rate, you need an accountant to help you deal with all growth transitions. These include hiring more employees, looking for a bigger office space, and market expansion.
Give us a shout today: 587-754-2910