A simple guide to tax deductible business expenses
Read time: 7 minutes
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.
Individuals have to file their tax returns by April 30. However, if you are self-employed, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) extends the filing deadline to June 15, but it begins assessing interest on your taxes due on April 30.
Corporations can choose any date for their fiscal year end. Taxes 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
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.
Frequently asked questions about tax deductions for businesses
Q: I am self-employed and I need to buy appropriate business attire to meet my clients. Can I deduct these wardrobe purchases as an expense?
A: “You cannot deduct the clothing that you will wear. Any personal expenses are not deductible,” says the CRA’s Trépanier.
Q: I got a parking ticket after a meeting with a client ran late. Can I deduct it?
A: “Penalties such as fines and parking tickets cannot be claimed,” she says.
Q: I have one cellphone that I use for work and home. How do I claim that as an expense?
A: You have to determine the portion that is used for business and you deduct only that, Trépanier says.
Q: I have a cleaning service and I buy the cleaning supplies for my business. What can I deduct?
A: You can claim the cost of your cleaning staff and your cleaning supplies for your business. If you operate your business at home, you can make these deductions if they are related to your work space, according to Trépanier.
Q: I have the Internet at work. Can I claim it as an expense?
A: It can be claimed 100% at your principal place of business. However, if it’s a home office, only a portion of the Internet can be claimed for its use in your work space. You have to evaluate the time that you use the Internet for your home business.
Q: I own a small business and I have one car that I use for both work and my family. What is my motor vehicle deduction?
A: Record the total number of kilometres driven from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 and calculate the number of kilometres you have driven for business reasons, recording the date, destination and reason for each trip. For example, if you have driven a total of 10,000 kilometres in a year and you have calculated that 1,000 kilometres were for business, you can claim a 10% deduction for the use of your car, Trépanier says.
Q: I have an office at my business and at my home. Can I claim both as an expense?
A: Generally when a person has more than one office, only the main office can be claimed as a deduction, says Trépanier.
Q: I file my business tax return electronically. Do I need to keep my paper receipts?
A: Keep your receipts at least for six years because they will be needed if there is an audit.
Q: I just bought business equipment and laptops for my staff. How do I deduct them?
A: Some business owners overlook expenses that should be capital costs, Trépanier says. Deduct equipment over a number of years. For example, if you buy laptops for employees deduct this equipment over its lifetime. This yearly deduction is called a capital cost allowance (CCA).
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.