Category Archives: Business Structure

How to Pay Yourself

 

You run your own business and want to pay the least amount in taxes, so what’s the smart way to pay yourself? 

The goal is to keep the biggest slice of pie for yourself. The best way to do that depends on your business type, whether your business is a sole proprietorship or a corporation. 

Your Business Structure 

Sole Proprietor 

As a sole proprietor, you are your businessYou can’t be an employee of the business, which means you can’t draw a wage from your business. There’s no way to defer taxes by leaving money “in the business”. The business income and expenses are recorded as an additional schedule on your personal taxes, and all your income is taxed together. 

Having said that, I do recommend keeping the business money separate from your personal money. Make sure to open a business bank account to help with this separation (read this to find out why: https://www.kirkcpa.ca/do-you-need-a-business-bank-account/).  

How do you pay your personal expenses? Don’t do it from the business bank account. Transfer the money from your business account to your personal account and pay your personal expenses from there.  

*Pro tip, these transfers to your personal account don’t count as expenses for your business. 

Corporation 

Paying yourself from a corporation is little more complicated because it’s a separate legal entityI mean, logistically it’s the same in that you can transfer money from your business to your personal account, but the corporation will have to classify that payment as either dividends or salary (for the purposes of this explanation we’ll treat salaries and bonuses as the same thing).  

The biggest difference between the two methods is a salary is tax deductible for the corporation and dividends are paid out of after-tax income. 

What does that mean? 

A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owner(s) (known as shareholders). As a separate legal entity, the corporation is responsible for paying taxes on its income. If a salary is paid out to an employee, the corporation can deduct it from revenue before calculating taxes. 

The salary is then taxable for the individual. This bit isn’t news. Most of us have worked for someone else, where we’ve been paid a wage that we needed to pay taxes on. 

Paying a wage seems like the better option because you only pay tax once – on your personal taxes. Payroll has its downfalls though. It’s administratively more work because the corporation needs to deduct income taxes and CPP from the salary (just like if you worked for someone else), match the CPP contribution, and remit it to the CRA every month. It can also be more expensive because CPP isn’t paid on dividends, so if the CPP is more than the corporate tax bill it might not be worth it. 

Dividends 

Dividends are not tax deductible for the corporation, so the money paid out has already been taxed at the corporate level. You might be thinking “sweet, if tax has already been paid, does that mean it’s tax free for me to withdraw?” Nope, unfortunately not. You still need to pay personal tax on dividends, which means you’re effectively paying tax twice.  

So why would you take dividendsFor you as an individual, dividends are taxed at a lower rate than a salarySometimes paying tax at the corporate level (usually lower than paying at the individual level) plus paying the lower individual tax rate on dividends is actually less than the individual tax rate on a salary.  

Let’s recap 

Salary 

Dividends 

Tax deductible for the corporation 

Not tax deductible – paid out of after tax income 

Monthly remittances of income tax and CPP deductions 

No remittances 

Taxed at a higher rate for the individual 

Taxed at a lower rate for the individual 

Corporation has a portion of CPP to pay 

No CPP payments (which means no CPP withdrawal later in life) 

Increases your RRSP contribution room 

No impact on RRSP contribution room 

More conventional personal income so it’s easier to get personal loans 

Tougher to get personal loans (like mortgages) with only dividend income 

More formal process for getting money into the hands of the individual 

Simple transfer between bank accounts 

 

Which one should you choose? 

As with every question asked to an accountant – it depends. Your specific situation will determine the best way to pay yourself from a corporation. If you have another source of employment income, maybe dividends are the way to go. If the corporation is your only income, maybe you pay yourself a salary of $60k and switch to dividends after maxing out your CPP contributions for the year.  

To make the choice, it’s important to calculate the total tax (corporate and individual) payable for a few different scenarios to see which one is the best fit for you. If you’re doing these calculations on your own, I would revisit your strategy every year to ensure you always have the best fit for your changing situation. 

If you’d like help with this calculation, let’s chat! You can get in touch with me here: Contact

Kaitlin

Steps After Incorporation

Step By Step

I am in the process of incorporating my company. I’ve also been talking to a few other clients about how it would be tax effective for them to incorporate their companies. The lawyers have been hired, the paperwork filed, so what’s next?

What needs to happen after you incorporate, and in what order, is top of mind for me and my clients in this same stage of their business adventure.

Step By Step

11 steps you need to take after incorporating your business:

1. Open a business bank account

As soon as I have my Articles of Incorporation, I need to go to the bank and open up a business bank account – even if I had a business bank account previously under the sole proprietorship.

This is my first step because I need to be able to pay for operating expenses and pay for them through the corporation immediately. Hopefully, they’ll give me a credit card as well.

2. Register your new corporation with the CRA

I’m going to register my new corporation with the CRA if it hasn’t already been done (if you incorporate federally it happens as part of the process). Note: I’ve already registered as a sole proprietor, that’s not useful for the corporation. I need to close my HST account and open a new one for the corporation.

I’m also going to register for a payroll account because I can put myself on the payroll along with a bookkeeper I employ. I want to be able to start paying us immediately.

3. Register with your applicable governing body

I need to register an accounting firm. This is a specific step for me as an accountant, but maybe you have to go and acquire a business license. Or perhaps you need to register with your own applicable governing body. This step to me comes after the CRA registration and the business bank account because I have to pay for this registration.

4. Buy insurance or switch insurance from Sole Proprietor to Corporation

Before I start operating this company, I need insurance. I have insurance currently for myself as a sole proprietor, but I need insurance specifically for the Corporation for liability. Because I’m an accountant, I have errors and omissions insurance; however, general business liability insurance is what I recommend immediately before you start operating your company.

5. Update your payment provider

I run all of my payments through Stripe because I have a monthly recurring business model. I charge clients’ credit cards every month. This eliminates having to send them an invoice and having them input their information every time. It just automatically charges through Stripe.

The contract that I signed with Stripe is with me as an individual and I need to make sure that I change the contract to be with the corporation. This is important because if later on I sell the company, the Stripe contract is with the company and not with me personally.

6. Update your supplier contracts with Corporation name

Along the same lines of changing contracts, I’m going to go through all of my current suppliers and make sure that I sign new contracts with them. This could be Microsoft because I have a subscription to Office 365 or Receipt Bank which allows me to upload and track all my expenses. I have a few others, but you get the idea.

7. Update your client contracts with Corporation name and have your clients sign

I have engagement letters that I send to new clients so that we understand the scope of work that’s going to happen. I have one for personal tax clients, one for corporate tax returns and one for a monthly relationship with a client like a retainer agreement. I need to rewrite these agreements and ensure they now state the Corporation’s name. I will also have a lawyer look over them just make sure they’re compliant, to protect both myself and my clients.

Then I will have to send a new agreement to each client and have them sign again. It will probably be the exact same agreement they signed before, but I need them to sign up with the Corporation because contracts need to be party to the entities that are actually in the contract.

8. Update your employee and subcontractor contract with the Corporation and have your employees / subcontractors sign

I need to redesign all of my contracts with my current employees and subcontractors. See my point above about contracts needing to be party to the most current people and entities.

9. Update your bookkeeping software with the new Corporation name and start a new file

I currently have a QuickBooks file for my sole proprietorship, but the corporation will be a completely separate entity. This means I need a new set of “books” for it.

This is the same whether you use QuickBooks, Wave, or another bookkeeping software.

10. Move your assets from Sole Proprietorship to the Corporation

I will need to move my assets into my Corporation. In my case, I only have a computer, so my assets aren’t significant. I’m going to have the Corporation buy it from me at the value it’s currently sitting on my books for.

If I had a large asset that I needed to roll into the Corporation, I would do what’s called a section 85 rollover. I’m not going to address it here in this blog as it’s dull for those that don’t study this kind of thing! However, if you need to do this, have your lawyer help you. It’s tricky.

11. New email address and website address if your company name has changed

Did you know, because I’m an accountant, I have to incorporate the URL of my business? This means I’ve incorporated Kirk CPA Professional Corporation even if I’m not thrilled about it. I had another name picked out I was really excited for, but sometimes you just do what you have to do. I’d much rather keep the URL I have then go with the name I chose.

For your business, if you are changing the name, don’t forget this might mean a new web address, a new email address, and changes to directories and/or social media profiles.

This is my current list of steps to take after incorporation, but it certainly isn’t exhaustive. It sounds like a lot of paperwork (it is, I won’t sugar coat it), but it will be worth it in the long run as my business grows.

Have you recently incorporated your business? What steps did you take after you received your Articles of Incorporation? What challenges did you have? Let’s share our experience to make it easier for entrepreneurs walking the same path. Feel free to share and join me online at www.facebook.com/kaitlinkirkcpa

Kaitlin

The Burden of Incorporation

You have this amazing idea, you know you can help people, and you’re sick of your 9-5 job – so you make the choice to start your own business. It’s scary, but SO liberating.

Great! You’ve decided! You’re doing it! Yay!

Now what?

Should you incorporate? It would feel so official to incorporate. You’d have a real piece of paper saying you owned a company! You could take a selfie with it to keep as a record of this exciting new chapter in your life!

Let’s slow down. I totally understand this feeling. When I started my business, I wanted everyone to know. I was SO excited to go on an adventure and leave my old life behind.

An Incredible Journey

On your journey, you need the right tools. Think of your business form like a backpack. You want your pack to be the right size and weight for the adventure you’re on, so it doesn’t slow you down, but has everything you need in it.

If you’ve headed out for a day trip, maybe a small backpack that can hold your lunch and a couple water bottles is all you need. It would be nice and light, but would have everything you needed for the day.

What if you wanted to go on a multi-day trek up the side of a mountain? You’d want to have a big camping pack with a tent, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, and a bunch of food and water.

Now think about having that big camping pack on your day trip. It would take far more energy to haul that pack around than the small backpack with just your lunch.

Business forms are the same. Think of the camping bag as a corporation. There are times when you absolutely want to have a big, heavy corporation for your business, but if the benefits of having all that structure is less than the weight of it, don’t incorporate.

There are a number of considerations when you’re deciding whether or not to incorporate your business, here are my top five:

Risk

A corporation is a distinct legal entity separated from you as a person. This arms-length distance can be especially important if you are working in an industry that is exposed to risk.

In the unfortunate event that your company is sued the assets of the company are at risk, but the lawsuit would not be able to touch your personal assets. At least in theory… in practice it is not uncommon for the business owner to also be personally named in a legal claim. (if you are concerned about your business liability, you should be consulting a lawyer to have this discussion)

Start-up Cash

If you need a bunch of money for start-up costs, a corporation will allow you to sell equity (shares) in the company or to take on debt to generate the funds you need. Except that a new corporation has the about same credit rating as a teenager who just moved out, so loans can be a challenge.

As a sole proprietor, you’re limited to your savings or the amount someone (like a bank or your Grandma) is willing to lend you.

Transferability

Are you in business for life, or planning to make fast money and a quick exit?

A sole proprietorship isn’t transferable. Somebody can buy your individual assets (like your equipment, website code, and rights to your trade name), but the business itself can’t be separated from the owner.

A corporation has shares, and shares can be transferred. It’s by selling shares that you’re able to sell a corporation
and everything that goes along with it. You can sell the assets of a company, but then you’re left with shares of a company with no assets, so that’s a whole other conversation.

Paying Yourself

As a sole-proprietor all your business income IS your personal income. Technically, there is no dividing line. (Though, for the sake of your sanity and success, I really recommend keeping very separate records for yourself and the business)

Your personal taxes and bookkeeping will become much more complicated than you may be used to as an employee.

When you incorporate, the tricky part is then actually paying yourself for your work. As an individual you’re taxed on any money you pull out of the corporation. That means for the corporation to be worth it, the total amount of taxes paid by yourself and the corporation needs to be less than if you paid tax on all of the income personally.

A corporation is a separate legal entity from yourself, which means you need to file a separate tax return. These are not easy returns, even if the company didn’t do much in the year. You’re going to need an accountant to prepare the taxes, and it won’t be cheap.

There are a few tax planning opportunities with a corporation, but if you’re not making a certain level of income, it doesn’t matter.

Flexibility

It’s a paperwork-intensive process to incorporate a company and it takes a little while. You have to file annual reports whether or not the corporation had any business activity. It also must be closed (which means still more paperwork) if you ever wanted to quit.

A sole proprietor on the other hand, can just start doing business (make sure you have the proper licenses) and can stop whenever they want to. There’s a lot more flexibility there, so if life gets in the way, no big deal!

My general recommendation is to start out as a sole proprietor and only incorporate when it becomes beneficial for you. This article is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons for or against incorporation. If you’d like to chat more about this, I’d be happy to help you out https://www.kirkcpa.ca/contact

When you start out on a business adventure, just grab the small backpack that’s already in your closet and head out the door. While you’re out, if you decide to take on a much longer and more complex adventure, you can always go by the camping store get yourself a bigger backpack with everything you need in it.

Kaitlin

P.S. If you’re on a business adventure come join us in the Captains Harbour community! We’re business captains that have come together to chat and get support on all things accounting and taxes!