October 8, 2021
Taxes for individuals who are self-employed individuals can be confusing.
We created this mini-guide as a reference manual for those of you who are self-employed and need to file tax.
If you have questions about your specific situation, we recommend that you speak to a qualified tax professional.
This guide is split into two main sections:
- The first section called “Start Here” is meant to address general topics you need to know about filing taxes as someone who is self-employed.
- The second section called “Deductions” will address important tax deductions you should keep in mind when filing your taxes.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for individuals who are freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, influencers, artists, creatives, and anyone else who considers themselves to be “self-employed”
If you’re not someone who receives a T4 slip from an employer, you’re most likely self-employed.
Section #1 Start Here
By far the most common question we get from clients who are self-employed is: “Should I charge HST?”. As with all questions in accounting, the short answer is “it depends”.
In our blog post about GST/HST, we state that anyone in Canada that sells goods or services worth more than $30,000/year is required to collect HST. However, some categories of good/services don’t require you to charge HST.
The important thing to remember about HST as a self-employed individual is:
- You need to determine whether or not you’re required to charge HST for your goods or services
- If you are required to charge HST, you should register for HST with the CRA and get an HST number
- Make sure that you file your HST return and pay the HST required as required by the CRA
Most individuals who are self-employed believe that you only have to pay tax when you file your tax return. This is incorrect. The CRA requires self-employed individuals to pay tax throughout the year if your income is above a certain threshold.
What does this mean? It means if you paid more than $3,000 (or $1,800 in Quebec) in taxes last year as a self-employed individual, you are required to pay taxes to the government throughout the year (CRA: who has to pay). Let’s look at a quick example to understand what this means:
Jane is a self-employed photographer and paid $6,000 in taxes in 2020.
Since Jane paid more than $3,000 in taxes last year, this means that she will be required to pay taxes in installments for 2021. These installments are calculating using her tax bill from last year of $6,000 and dividing this number by 4 which is equal to: $1,500.
Hence, for 2021 Jane is required to pay $1,500 four times a year and when she files her taxes, there will be a “true-up adjustment” in order to make sure that the amount she’s paid of $6,000 is adjusted for the actual taxes owing for the year.
Why do you have to pay taxes in installments? Because the government doesn’t wait for it’s money! You have to pay the government your taxes owing throughout the year and not just when you file your taxes. This is similar to most employed individuals. When you work for an employer, taxes are deducted from your paycheque immediately. You don’t wait until you have to file your taxes to pay tax. In a similar fashion, quarterly installment payments require self-employed individuals to pay tax throughout the year.
Profit and Loss Statement
If you’re self-employed and provide services to one or multiple clients, you have should consider the expenses you’ve incurred to provide those services to your clients.
Hence, before you file your income tax it’s important that you develop a profit and loss statement for your business. Let’s look at example:
In 2021, Jane had self-employment income of $60,000 and she has expenses for the following:
- Admin: $5,000
- Office: $750
- Software: $1,000
This is how her profit and loss statement would be calculated for 2021:
It starts with your sales or revenue (i.e. the amount you’ve earned during the year) less all of your business expenses. Business expenses are items you’ve purchased to earn your revenue (ex. stationary, software subscriptions). Personal expenses (ex. clothes) don’t qualify.
If you’re self-employed and have net income (revenue less expenses) of over $3,500 you’re required by the CRA to make CPP contributions.
As a self-employed individual, you will be required to contribute both the employee and employer portion of the CPP payment. The amount you owe is calculated based on your net income.
As an example, if we take a look at Jane’s example above where she has Net Income of $53,250, her CPP contributions can be calculated using this CPP Table from the CRA:
Self-employed individuals don’t have to make contributions to EI.
However, you can voluntarily register to pay EI premiums. Why would you do this?
Paying EI would allow you to take advantage of government benefits offered through EI for maternity, parental, or caregivers. The full list of benefits can be found here.
You should note that in order to receive any benefits under EI, you must have paid premiums for a 12 month period before you can collect any benefits.
How much do you have to pay?
In 2021, for every $100 earned, you contribute $1.58 in EI up to a maximum of $889.54
Quebec has its own parental insurance program. In 2021, for every $100 earned, you contribute $1.18 in EI up to a maximum of $664.34.
Section #2 Deductions
Expenses deduction for self-employed individuals make working for yourself more attractive than earning income as an employee.
In section #1 of this post, we discussed how most expenses than can be deducted from income earned as a self-employed individual have to be incurred to generate sales or revenue.
In this section, we will discuss other expenses than can also be allocated to a self-employed individual’s profit and loss statement to calculate net income for tax purposes.
Meal and Entertainment
Client lunches and dinners can be expensed. However, the CRA dictates that only 50% of the cost of the meal can be deducted.
The most practical advice we give business owners is to expense these meals as incurred at 100%. When it comes time to file your taxes, your accountant will add back 50% of this amount to ensure that only the tax-deductible portion of meals and entertainment is shown on your profit and loss statement.
Home Office expenses
Most corporations lease office space where their employees and team can work. This lease cost is deductible to the corporation.
Most self-employed individuals work from a home-office. Similar to corporations, self-employed individuals can deduct the equivalent of rent as home office expenses on their profit and loss statement to determine net income for income tax purposes. However, the deduction you take is prorated by the square footage of your home office space. Expenses that can be deducted are as follows:
- Property insurance
- Property Taxes
- Mortgage interest
- Utilities (heat and light)
Let’s take a look at an example to understand how this works:
Jane is self-employed and uses her home office to earn income. Her expenses for 2020 are as follows:
- Rent: $24,000/year
- Property Insurance: $1,000/year
- Property Taxes: $4,500/year
- Utilities $960/year
A common question we get from self-employed individuals is whether or not car expenses can be expensed.
The deduction for vehicle expenses works the same way as home office expenses whereby only the business portion of your vehicle expenses can be deducted. This is measured by calculating the kilometers you drive for personal use and business use, and thereafter prorating the expense accordingly.
Car expenses have other limitations imposed by the CRA which we will explore in our next blog post.
If you’re going to be travelling for businesses purposes outside your usual area of business to meet clients or for other business purposes, these costs would qualify as deductions on your profit and loss statement.
We would note however, that commuting expenses incurred (i.e. to and from work) do not qualify as eligible deductions.
If you’re a qualified professional and pay professional fees to maintain a certification (ex. accountants pay fees to maintain their CPA designation), such fees qualify as deductions on your profit and loss statement.
If you’re a qualified professional and pay fees for courses to maintain your designation or further your professional development, such fees qualify as deductions on your profit and loss statement. In addition, any interest on loans you’ve taken to pursue such courses can be deducted.
Let us help you. Do you have questions? Email us: email@example.com
The accounting and tax information provided in this post does not constitute advice and is meant to be for general information purposes only. The information is current as at the date of this post and does not reflect any changes in accounting and/or tax legislation thereafter. Moreover, the information has been prepared without considering your company or personal financial/tax circumstances and/or objectives.