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Home » Taxation
Home Office Expenses - Sole Proprietors How to Claim Your Tax Deduction
Category :- Taxation

Author :- L. Kenway, BComm CPB Publisher of Bookkeeping-Essentials.com 
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Posted on February 22, 2015, 2:49 pm
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Article reprinted with permission

 

Sole proprietors with home-based businesses receive some favorable tax treatment in Canada. Claiming your home office expenses as a tax deduction on form T2125 is one tax saving opportunity you don't want to miss when doing your tax preparation this year ... or any year.

 

The calculation of Business Use of Home expenses is found on page 3 of Form T2125 Statement of Business or Professional Activities.

 

To claim this tax deduction, you are going to have to gather some information and meet some strict criteria, laid out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in Guide T4002, Business and Professional Income.

 

Please note that this chat is for sole proprietors. Claiming your home office tax deductions has slightly different rules and criteria if you are:

 

-incorporated and are home-based;

-employees and commissioned sales employees that telecommute (i.e. are home-based).

 

With that said I think we can all agree that tax time isn't everyone's cup of tea, but saving on taxes legally is. So let's get started.

 

 

Do You Qualify for the Home Office Expense Deduction?

 

Prior to 1988, there were no restrictions on deducting home office expenses to offset other earned income. Since 1988, some restrictions apply.

 

CRA's Guide T4002 tells us you can take the home office expense tax deduction if you meet one of the following conditions:

 

1. It is the principal place of business; OR

2. The space is used exclusively to earn business income on a regular AND continuous basis for meeting clients, customers or patients.

 

 

Notice that in the first criteria ...

 

... if you use part of the home for both business and personal living (ie. not exclusively to earn business income) OR ...

... you have an exclusive work area but you do not meet customers on a regular basis on your premises ...

... you must prorate your claim based on hours of use in a day and days of use in a week. We’ll chat about how to prorate expenses further along in this article.

The examples CRA give in Interpretation Bulletin IT-514 are farmers and contractors. The T4002 Guide uses hairdressers that work from their home but do not have an exclusive portion of the home set aside for the business ... as an example.

 

If you are a virtual business (do business over the internet and through online meetings) you would fall in this category as you would not meet customers on your premises.

 

Evelyn Jacks book Master Your Taxes says that "meeting clients can include phone or in-person meetings".  Logic would follow that perhaps there could be an argument made regarding having face-to-face meetings online. You'd be wrong in that making that assumption. (We’ll discuss telephone calls a bit more ... and online meetings when covering the second criteria.)

 

If you are claiming under criteria one, Canadian tax expert Evelyn Jacks recommends you make and date a sketch of the business use area in relationship to the personal living space of the house. Keep it on file in the event of an audit to provide support documentation for your claim.

 

The second criteria has two parts ...

 

... both of which must be met.

 

First, the work space must be segregated and used only for business and no other purpose.

 

The second part of this criterion is regular meetings. In this instance you want to ensure you keep an appointment log as proof for CRA if audited. A Business Journal is also a good idea.

 

As mentioned above, Evelyn Jacks said meeting clients can include phone meetings. However a recent CRA ruling 2013-0481171E5 E Home Office Expenses says this is no longer the case. CRA defines "meet" as "encounter (a person or persons) by accident or design; come face to face with". CRA has ruled that meetings through email, telephone, and Skype do not qualify.

 

Neal Armstrong's News of Note Newsletter dated February 16, 2014 titled Telephoning is not meeting someone reported ...

 

"Notwithstanding some Tax Court decisions (e.g., Glen) finding that the phrase can include telephone meetings, CRA considers that “the phrase ‘meeting customers or other persons’…includes only face to face encounters.”"

 

Mr. Armstrong went on to describe when a phone-in could be argued as valid ...

 

"This arguably suggests that a directors’ meeting physically conducted in, say, Luxembourg, but with Canadians phoning in, qualifies as a meeting held in Luxembourg – at least, where two of the directors are face-to-face in Luxembourg."

 

This seems to means if you regularly meet your clients utilizing online meeting technology such as GoToMeeting, you DO NOT meet the regular meetings criteria and must claim this deduction using option one.

 

Ridiculous, I know, that the government does not amend their wording / definitions to accommodate new technology especially when CRA has removed many face-to-face services and replaced them with current technology alternatives. A bit of a double standard don't you think?

 

It also means that if you have a business that has infrequent or irregular meetings, you DO NOT meet this criteria and you must prorate your claim based on hours of use in a day and days of use in a week.

 

I’ve also read accountants recommending that you:

 

-Photograph your office and your business meetings in your office.

 

-Have a register that clients sign when they come to your office.

 

 

There are Restrictions on the Deduction

 

Once you determine you have met the criteria to take the business use in home expense tax deduction, be aware the deduction has limitations.

 

It cannot be used to create or increase a loss for income tax purposes. However, it can be carried forward indefinitely if you are unable to use it in the current year AND continue to meet the criteria to make the claim.

 

Any carried forward expenses will have to be used up in any year there is business income, to reduce your income to zero.

Also be aware that your home telephone line (point 4 of Bulletin IT-514), consumed supplies and similar expenses are not deductible under this section as they do not relate to the work space itself.

 

I probably don't have to say this, but just in case.  You can only ever deduct an expense of any kind ONCE ... so if you claim something under business use of home expense, it cannot be deducted anywhere else!

 

 

Should You Claim Capital Cost Allowance?

 

The self-employed in Canada have the option to claim capital cost allowance (CCA) and mortgage interest in the calculation of this tax deduction.

 

Tax experts don't usually recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to claim CCA. Why? ... Because it is subject to capital gain and recapture rules which removes the tax-exempt status of a portion of your home as a principal residence.

 

What does this mean? It means you would have to pay capital gains on the depreciated portion of your home ... in the future when you sold it.

 

If you are home-based, you really should be aware of the rules surrounding change of use of principal residence.

 

How to Prorate Home Office Expenses

 

Once you have gathered the eligible home office expense original source documents as listed on form T2125 ... which include utilities including water (but not your telephone), maintenance and repairs, insurance, property taxes, rent, mortgage interest ... you must prorate them to your office space.

 

To calculate the percentage of expenses related to your home office that are deductible, perform the following calculation ... keeping in mind the above discussions on which criteria you fell under.

 

Business Use - Criteria One

 

Square footage of office space / total square footage of home

  x hours in operation each day / 24 hours

  x days in operation each week / 7 days

 

Business Use - Criteria Two

 

Square footage of office space / total square footage of home

 

Professional tax software programs like Trilogy's TaxCycle or Intuit's Profile have a space for these calculations right on the worksheet. It is important to keep your notes on how you made your calculation so if your tax program has the feature, make a memo note on it.

 

Once your worksheet is complete, you (or your tax program) carries the amount up to page 2 of Form T2125 to line 9945. If there was an amount carried forward from the prior year, you will see it in your worksheet just under the capital cost allowance.

Things to Consider:

Home Office Expenses to Include

Home Office Expenses to Exclude

 

I'm going to discuss the home office expense deductions in the reverse order they show on Form T2125.

 

Property Taxes and Your Home Office Expenses

 

In British Columbia, you can apply to defer your property taxes beginning at the age of 55 ... although I don't know why you would want to as it may affect your future borrowing power against your home equity in times of emergencies.

 

Banks like to have first claim to your collateral. I have a friend who is a bank manager and she says they would want you to pay off your back taxes before they would consider loaning you money with your home as collateral. That would be awful news to hear if you are having a financial crisis and need to borrow money.

 

Anyway, if you do go this route, Eileen Reppenhagen, CGA, a tax researcher, author and speaker, says your deferred property taxes are still claimable. What she isn't sure about is whether the grants should reduce the claim.

 

I like to be conservative in my tax saving strategies (it's just my nature and I can't afford to be the one to challenge the government) so I would reduce the taxes to the amount I actually paid. Why? Because all rebates, grants, assistance must offset the expense or be claimed as income. But then I'm not a tax expert and I sometimes don't understand the nuances that tax professionals are trained in.

 

Mortgage Interest and Your Home Office Expenses

 

CRA IT-533 Bulletin - Interest Deductibility and Related Issues defines interest as having to meet three criteria.

 

1. The amount must be calculated on a day-to-day accrual basis.

2. The amount must be calculated on a principal sum.

3. The amount must be compensation for the use of the principal sum.

 

Evelyn Jacks book Make Sure It's Deductible states that the interest costs pertaining to mortgage costs are "deductible for the self-employed according to the space used for business purposes". However the interest on a secured line of credit against your home is not considered a mortgage, as far as I know.

 

The general rule is that mixed-use expenses must separate or you must prorate the business component. I would not include that in your interest calculations unless it pertains to the situation described in the next paragraph.

 

Stephen Thompson in 167 Tax Tips for Canadian Small Business explains that if you increase your mortgage to finance the start-up of your business (as opposed to personal debt described above), the portion of the mortgage interest that relates to the business is 100% deductible as a business expense.

 

Home Maintenance Expenses and Your Home Office Expenses

 

You must only include expenses that relate to the whole house or your home office in particular. Costs related solely to personal use areas are to be excluded ... this means you CANNOT just take a percentage of the total home maintenance costs.

 

Always keep in mind the general rule - personal use expenses are NEVER deductible.

 

Insurance - Personal vs Home Business

If you are operating your business from your home, be sure your policy includes coverage for operating a business from your home. You would hate to invalidate a policy just because you didn't know any better. This additional coverage is 100% deductible under your regular business expenses, not as part of the home office expenses.

 

Any expense related to separate coverages listed in your policy for personal property items should NOT be included in the proration of your home insurance for this calculation.

I strongly recommend you read the following articles at Michael James on Money:

 

-House insurance for home based business (December 28, 2010); and

-An explanation of insurance company squeamishness about home business (December 30, 2010).

 

That's it for now. When doing tax preparation for your home business, take advantage of the tax saving opportunity to claim your home office expenses ... because every little bit counts when it comes to legally reducing your overall tax bill

Remember this article just presents information to you and should not be construed as advice. When in doubt, ask a professional accountant for advice specific to your circumstances.

 

Source: http://www.bookkeeping-essentials.com/home-office-expenses.html


Comments : L. Kenway is a CPB Certified Professional Bookkeeper Member, Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, Prince George Chapter with over 20 years of experience in budgets, forecasting, financial planning and general accounting.
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