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A simple guide to tax deductible business expenses

Remember that personal expenses are not deductible business expenses

Read time: 7 minutes

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It’s tax season: With all of your receipts in hand, it’s time to start organizing them to file your tax return for your business.

Generally, individuals have to file their tax returns by April 30. However, if you, your spouse or common-law partner are self-employed, you have until June 15 to file your return. But be careful if you have a balance owing; the CRA begins charging interest on any unpaid amounts owing starting on May 1.

Corporations can choose any date for their fiscal year end. Taxreturns must be filed no later than six months after the end of each tax year for corporations.

What can I deduct for my business taxes?

Generally, all businesses can deduct from their income expenses that are incurred not only to make the business operational, but also to maintain that business once it is up and running.

The CRA has a list of the common business expenses that you can deduct.

The important thing is that the expenses must be incurred to earn the business income and they must be reasonable under the circumstances.

“They must be supported by original invoices,” says Chantal Trépanier of the CRA’s Liaison Officer Service.

“There is a lot that you can claim. It’s about proportion and being reasonable.”

In terms of timing, the only restriction is that expenses incurred in a business's fiscal year must be claimed against income earned in that year. There are wrinkles to this process relating to accounting methods (income or expenses secured in a fiscal year, but not actually paid until the following year, must be included, for example).

You can refer to the table below for examples of the main operating expenses you can claim when filing your taxes.

The main operating expenses you can deduct from your taxes

Business start-up costs

You can deduct expenses that preceded the operation of the business. However, you can only claim expenses if you operated the business in the fiscal period in which the expense was incurred.

Supplies

You can deduct the cost of items that your business used indirectly to provide goods or services. For example, drugs and medication used in a veterinary operation, or cleaning supplies used by a plumber.

Business tax, fees, licences and dues

Tax, fees, licences and dues are deductible, but you can’t deduct club membership dues including initiation fees if the main purpose of the club is dining, recreation, or sporting activities.

Office expenses

You can deduct the cost of small items such as pencils, pens, stamps, paperclips and stationery. Do not include desks, chairs, filing cabinets and calculators because they are capital items.

Business use-of-home expense

For example, if your home is 1,500 square meters and your office is 300 square meters, your office is 20% of your home's total size. That means you are able to deduct 20% of many home expenses as home office expenses on your tax return.

You can deduct some expenses for heat, electricity, insurance, maintenance, mortgage interest (or rent), property taxes and “other expenses.” Again, this must be proportionate to the actual space that you are using in your home for your business.

When it comes to deducting business expenses for repairs and maintenance, you can’t deduct the value of your own labour.

Check the CRA Business-use-of-home expenses webpage for more information.
Salaries, wages, benefits

You can deduct gross salaries and other benefits, such as Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums, you pay to employees.

Travel

In most cases, the 50% limit applies to the cost of meals, beverages, and entertainment when you travel.

Rent

You can deduct rent paid for property used in your business. For example, you can deduct rent for the land and building where your business is situated.

Management and administration fees

You can deduct management and administration fees, including bank charges incurred to operate your business. Bank charges include those for processing payments.

Interest and bank charges

You can deduct interest incurred on money borrowed for business purposes or to acquire property for business purposes. Check the CRA website for limits.

Property taxes

You can deduct property taxes for the land and building where your business is located. Note that the property tax related to business use of work space in your home has to be claimed as business-use-of-home expenses.

Telephone and utilities

You can deduct expenses for telephone and utilities such as gas, oil, electricity, water and cable, if you incurred the expenses to earn income.

Insurance

You can deduct all ordinary commercial insurance premiums you incur on any buildings, machinery, and equipment you use in your business. Insurance costs related to your motor vehicle must be claimed as motor vehicle expenses.

Bad debt

You can deduct an account receivable that won’t get paid if you had already included it as income for the year.

Advertising

You can deduct expenses for advertising, including advertising on Canadian radio and television stations and in Canadian newspapers. Digital advertising is also tax deductible.

Need more help understanding your tax obligations?

The Canada Revenue Agency offers a free Liaison Officer service to owners of small businesses and self-employed individuals with in-person visits and pre-arranged seminars.

A liaison officer can answer your tax-related questions, discuss common tax errors and explain best practices.

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