12 Ways to Optimize Your Cash Flows and Taxes Before the Year is Through

Most entrepreneurs aren’t thinking about their 2016 taxes this month, but they should be…there are some things you need to do before December 31 to take advantage of certain deductions and tax credits for your 2016 tax return.  And, it’s also a good time to have a boost in your cash flows.  Here are 12 tips:

Increase Your Cash Flows

  1. Want a boost in your cash flows this last month of the year?Look at where you are leaving money on the table – it could be outstanding receivables, over-delivering on your services, not following up on leads (how awesome would it be to book another client or two just before Christmas?!).
  • While you’re at it, why not review your payment policies…maybe a change is required such that you’re getting paid in advance or at the very least on the day of service (that way you don’t have to worry about chasing those receivables after the fact).
  • Now is also a good time to review your pricing strategies to make sure your charging for value.  Now would be a good time to notify your clients of price increases that will take effect in January.

 

2.  Consider accelerating purchases for your business.

As a business owner, you probably have a good idea of the things you need for your business.  If you want to get the deduction from your income this year, purchase items you need in your business on credit in December and pay for them in January when your credit card is due.  This way you’ll get the tax deduction this year but defer the cash outlay until next year.

  1. Pre-sell packages/services/goods to be delivered in the new year.

‘Tis the season for giving, so why not offer an incentive for people to pre-order goods and services and pay for them now, that they’ll receive in the new year.  Examples could be taking custom orders for your goods for future delivery, offering gift certificates for clients to give to their loved ones that they can use in the new year, offer savings/bonuses to pre-sell a program/course/workshop that will take place in the new year.

4.  If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to look at your 2017 plan.  When you have clarity in where you’re going, and align your actions to achieve that, you’re telling the Universe that you’re open and ready to receive.  That receiving may even happen sooner than you think.  Going back to my previous point – when you have clarity of your 2017 goals/targets/plan, you can decide which offers to promote and pre-sell now.

When you’re planning for the new year, plan with the end in mind and ask these key strategy questions:

    • What is your overall vision, purpose and goal?
    • Where will you play (play where your target clients are)?  How will you become more visible and build your audience?
    • How will you hit/exceed your targets?  What will  you offer, at what price? How/when will you get paid? What are you marketing/sales strategies? How will you know you’re on track?  What are your back up plans?
    • What capabilities/resources need to be in place to support that?
    • What management systems need to be adopted and implement to support that?

 

Optimize your 2016 taxes

So now you’ve injected some extra cash into your bank before year-end, the year would not be complete without thinking about how to optimize your taxes.  Here are some tax-saving tips that you’d need to consider doing before year-end.

  1.  Maximize your CCA (tax depreciation) claims.

Purchase business equipment before year-end to accelerate the capital cost allowance (CCA) deduction by one year.  For most equipment purchases, you get 1/2 the CCA deduction in the year of purchase.  So if you purchase in Dec 2016, you get 1/2 the year’s CCA in 2016, then a full year’s worth in 2017.  If you wait until early 2017 to make the purchase, you only get 1/2 the year’s CCA in 2017, even though you’ve been using it for almost a full year.   Again, buy them on credit and pay later, allowing your to get the deduction in 2016, but defer the cash outlay to 2017.

2.  Keep cash in the family and reduce your taxes.

Pay a reasonable salary to your kids/partner for actual work they do for you (this is a form of acceptable income splitting).  You get the deduction, and the income should be picked up in their income tax return for the year, presumably at a lower tax rate than yours.  But, also beware of additional tax compliance and amounts you have to remit (such as CPP contributions and completing T4’s).

3.  Maximize your car expenses.

If you use your car for business, and you know you’re car is in need of service and repairs (perhaps new winter tires?), make those necessary car repairs before year-end to get the deduction in your 2016 income (in proportion to your business use of your car).  While you’re at it, update your mileage log to track all your business km’s.

4.  Maximize the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) for the year by making your RESP contributions prior to December 31.

If you have kids under the age of 18, the Canadian government give you a grant on the RESP contributions made for your kids’ post-secondary education.  The grant is 20% of the RESP contributions, to a maximum of $500 on $2500 of contributions made in the calendar year.  Now is the time to top up your RESP contributions to take advantage of the maximum available CESG for the year.  There are additional grants available for low income families and kids with disabilities.

5.  Maximize your RRSP contributions.

Assuming no carry-over room or pension adjustments, you can contribute 18% of your earned income for the previous year to your RRSP in 2016 (to a maximum of $25,370 for 2016 contributions).  Many people wait to top up their RRSP contributions until February.  However, there are a few instances where it would make more sense to do so before the end of the year.

    • If you’re nearing retirement, and make spousal RRSP contributions, consider that if you wait until Jan/Feb 2017 to make those contribution, your spouse will not be eligible to withdraw them until 2020.  Making the contribution in 2016 accelerates the eligible spousal withdrawal to 2019.
    • As a tax free savings vehicle, if you’re 18 or older, you can make after-tax contributions to a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA).  The maximum contribution for 2016 is $5500 (like RRSP’s, the unused contribution room gets carried forward and available to you in future years).  If you’re planning to make a withdrawal from your TFSA, do it now instead of waiting until January – that way your withdrawal is added back to your contribution limit for 2017 (otherwise you have to wait until 2018 to be eligible to add it back into your TFSA).

6.  Maximize your medical tax credits.

Medical and dental expenses incurred in the year can only be claim if paid in 12 month period (claim period) that ends on or before December 31.  So, you’ll want to pay those outstanding medical expenses/prescription refills/dental bills before year-end to maximize your claim for 2016.

7.  Optimize your charitable donations tax credits.

Total charitable donations in excess of $200 made in the year can give a higher tax credit (approximately 40% in Ontario) than your marginal income tax rate, giving  you a net benefit on your tax return.  But, the donations have to be made in on or before December 31 in order to be claimed on your 2016 tax return. So if you’re planning on giving, December is a great month to give.

8.  If you have unregistered investments which are giving you taxable gains in the year, consider selling stocks with accrued losses to offset realized gains for the year to reduce your taxable income.  Also, consider paying investment related expenses before year-end in order to get the deduction for this year against your investment income.

 

So there you have it – 12 ways to increase your cash flow and optimize your taxes for 2016.  Of course, these are general statements – each person’s situation is different and must be considered carefully before making decisions that will affect your taxes and cash flow, taking in to account the specifics of your situation.  I would suggest you speak to your accountant/tax advisor/investment advisor to be sure you’re making the best choices for your unique situation.  I’m happy to assist as well – contact me and request your complimentary clarity session to see how I may help.

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Do You Know Where You Are?

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”So many entrepreneurs just don’t know where they’re starting from, and end up taking inefficient and ineffective action to get to where they want to go.  For many, the first glimpse of their past year results is when they have their taxes done, which I have found in my 20 years of preparing tax returns for small businesses to be 4+ months after their year-end and into their current fiscal year.  But how can you get a good handle on your strategic action plan for a successful year if you don’t even know where you’re starting from?

That’s why I feel Step 2 – Knowing where you are now, financially, systematically and operationally, is an essential step in the process of creating your strategic action plan for success. This means you’re going to have to get organized with your financials and conduct a little internal assessment of where your are now in your business.

Once you have a good picture of your current financial situation, skills and resources, internal controls and risk management practices, you can figure out what you’re missing and need to put in place (Step 3 – Analyze the gaps between where you want to go and where you are now) in order to effectively build your action plan for how you will achieve the goals you set for your business in Step 1 of the 8 steps to create your road map to success.  (By the way, If you missed my 8 Steps to Building your Road Map to Success post, or last week’s post on Step 1 – Start with the end in mind, you can get them HERE.)

Statistics show that 85% of business failures are a result of improper organization and planning.  So why is it that so many entrepreneurs don’t have their records organized and up to date?  Some of the reasons I hear are: not enough time (and no one to help), not knowing how, and outright fear of money and finances (YIKES!).

On of my clients, Susan, recently shared with me that 2015 was her best year in a long time, that she had a lot of growth in the fall, and that a big part of that success had to do with me helping her to change her mindset about finances and understand her financial numbers in a strategy session we had back in the summer.  She had long been tracking, monitoring and using her marketing and social media metrics to gain more traffic and clients, but had fallen short of using her financial metrics effectively to grow her profits and cash flow.   As she put it, finances scared her, so she ignored them.  I helped her see that they weren’t scary at all (and in fact, they could be her best friend) and showed her how she could use her financial metrics to make more effective business decisions based on what her numbers were telling her.  So kudos to Susan for using her new knowledge and mindset to create a great year!

If you find yourself resisting the task of getting your finances up to date and organized, or if you just struggle with tracking and understanding your financial numbers, I can help.  Contact me to set up your complimentary Business Clarity Breakthrough session to discuss a strategy for success with this essential step in creating business success, and ask for my Business Management Assessment Questionnaire.

Complete the following form to request a private Clarity Session with Linda

How can I help? What are your top 3 business priorities/pressing issues that you would like solved right away?

Feel free to ask a question or simply leave a comment.

12 things you can do before the year is through to increase your cash flow and get ready for 2016

With a few weeks left of the year, there’s still time to take some action to increase your cash flow and get organized for 2016.  Earlier today, I shared these tips with some fabulous entrepreneurs over my first annual holiday networking lunch and now I share them with you.  Here are just a few things you can do to end out your year on a positive note for your business and your bank account.

YEAR-END BUSINESS TIPS (that you can do any time of the year):

1. Look at where you are leaving money on the table.
• Take advantage of early payment discounts on payable invoices, and bulk purchase discounts (if they make sense for you)
• Take advantage of zero to low interest deferred payment options

2. Collect outstanding receivables
• Have tough money conversations with the people who are past due with paying you what they owe you
• Set up an automated payment plan – get your customers to pay your something, anything, to show they are committed to paying you for the services/goods they received from you
• Review your pricing and payment policies and procedures

3. Pre-sell, and get paid for services/goods to be delivered in the new year.
• Think of a Boxing Day/Week promotion that you can offer to pre-sell a 2016 package
• Plan your January and February time slots and get clients booked in those spots now

4. Plan 2016 with the end in mind. Think about your overall goal, where you want to play, how you will win your game, what capabilities/resources need to be in place, and what systems (including policies and processes) need to be adopted to achieve your goals. Set SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound) goals not only for the year as a whole, but chuck them down into 60-90 day periods as well.

5. Look back at 2015 and see what worked, and what didn’t, so you don’t make the same mistakes and can make improvements going into 2016. This means you have to get your year-to-date finances and accounting in order now (not April next year) since your numbers paint the picture of what has happened. Your numbers let you see the peaks and valleys of your business so you can better plan for them in 2016 – to make the valleys smaller and create more consistent (and increasing) revenues and cash flows throughout the year.

6. When looking at 2016 planning, book in your time off/vacation/self-care time first (make you the most important asset and take care of you first – afterall, if you’re out due to illness, who will run your business for you?). You’ll also want to book in your CEO/CFO strategy and reflection dates and stick to them (A reflection date is when you take the time to reflect on your business results for the last period and decide what actions to take to keep moving forward). I recommend reviewing your numbers weekly, but with deeper dive at least quarterly, giving you many more chances in the year to address issues and take necessary detours as things come up, and to be pro-active rather than reactive in your business.

YEAR-END TAX TIPS:  Most people don’t think about taxes until filing their return after the year is over. However, with various tax changes in store for us in 2016, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider BEFORE the year is done to optimize your taxes for the coming year.  Before the end of the year, to reduce your taxes for this year, you should consider:

7. Purchasing business equipment before year end – If equipment purchase is on your list to do, consider purchasing equipment before year-end instead of waiting until next year.  This allows you to accelerate your CCA (tax depreciation) claim and reduce your net income this year.

8. Paying reasonable salary to your children and spouse who are working for you
If you have kids or a partner who does work for your, pay them what they’re worth (a reasonable salary) – especially if they are in a low tax bracket. This keeps the money in the family and reduces your tax bill by legitimately splitting income.

9. Making car repairs if your car is used for business
If you use your car for business and it’s in need of repairs, and you’re looking to reduce your tax bill, consider getting those repairs done before the end of the year so you can deduct them on your 2015 tax return.

10. Making charitable donations
Charitable giving is very tax effective (giving you up to $45 tax credit on every dollar given) and you help those in need at the same time. But you must actually make the donation before the year is over. Also, one caveat I give clients, is to always check out the charity and how their dollars are spent before giving to the cause. It might sound like they’re doing good things, but when they spend 80% of the donations on administration, maybe not so much

11. Consider selling losing stocks to offset realized gains
If you have made capital gains on stocks that sold in the year, and you have some investments with accrued losses, consider selling them to offset the gains. Just be careful of the 30 day stop loss rule (where you cannot buy back the same stock you sold at a loss in the first 30 days of the sale, or the loss is denied)

12. Now that I’ve given you all these great tips, here’s the kicker…you may actually want to defer some of these tips until the new year, depending on what tax bracket you’ll be in. You’ll want to consider how the new Liberal government tax initiatives that are expected to take effect Jan 1, 2016 will impact you and plan accordingly, namely with respect to:

  • New higher taxes for personal income over $200k (Ontario combined rate will be 53.53%, now 49.53%) – if your income will be over $200k you might also consider whether you should incorporate and defer some taxes
  • A reduced tax rate for personal income between $44.7k and 89.4k (Ontario combined rate will be 20.5%, now 22%)
  • The reduced small business corporate tax rate to 11% from 9% which the new government is proposing to change/defer the 2% reduction to a later time
  • Proposed changes to what companies will be eligible for the small business deduction
  • The elimination of the Family Tax Cut
  • The elimination of UCCB and CCTB, replaced with Canada Child Benefit, which is purely income driven (payments starting in July 2016 based on 2015 income)

It’s really about knowing your numbers and what to do with them to maximize your cash flows.  So, what can you do right now, with 3 weeks left of 2015?   Estimate your 2015 income and tax liability NOW, and estimate your 2016 income and tax liability based on your 2016 plan.  Then, take action to optimize your income and tax liability between the 2 years, so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying/receiving for 2015 well in advance of filing your return – leaving you with peace of mind for tax time, and the freedom to focus all of your energy come January on running your business and creating results for 2016 in 2016.

If you would like assistance with your 2015 year-end tax strategy and with planning your 2016 vision, contact me ASAP to book your complimentary Clarity Session (a conversation whereby I help you get clarity on what to focus on in your business and the one inspired action you need to take to get going).  Limited spots available in December.  www.visionspire.ca

Helpful links:

Canadian Charities Listing – http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html

Canadian Income Tax Estimator – http://www.taxtips.ca/calculators/canadian-tax/canadian-tax-calculator.htm

Liberal tax changes (as per their election campaign, confirmed in the Dec. 4th Throne Speech) – https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/05/Fairness-for-the-Middle-Class.pdf