How to File Taxes for an Incorporated Business in Canada

How to File Taxes for an Incorporated Business in Canada

Filing taxes for an incorporated business in Canada is a crucial process that requires attention to detail and an understanding of specific tax obligations and opportunities. Incorporation offers numerous benefits, including limited liability and potential tax savings, but it also comes with unique responsibilities, such as compliance with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations, understanding tax rates, and utilizing available deductions and credits effectively. Whether you’re a small business navigating your first fiscal year or a seasoned corporation looking to optimize your tax returns, knowing the ins and outs of corporate tax filing is essential for success and financial health.

This article aims to guide business owners through the intricacies of preparing and filing their taxes accurately and efficiently. From determining your fiscal year and gathering necessary financial statements like balance sheets and income statements to understanding the significance of receipts, invoices, and bank statements in documenting expenses and income. We will also explore how to leverage tax forms, calculate deductions and credits, and the benefits of thorough tax planning. Additionally, special considerations such as dividend calculation and transactions with shareholders will be addressed to ensure comprehensive tax compliance and optimally utilize tax benefits. Understanding these aspects can significantly impact your business’s financial management and contribute to its long-term success.

Understanding Incorporation and Its Tax Implications

Incorporating a business in Canada transforms it into a separate legal entity, distinct from its owners. This entity can own assets, operate independently, and is subject to its own set of tax implications.

Legal Entity Status and Taxation

Corporations are recognized as individual entities that can own property, enter contracts, and have liabilities separate from those of their shareholders. This separation provides considerable protection from personal liability for business debts and obligations. However, it also means that corporations are taxed separately from their owners, often at rates that are generally lower than personal tax rates. For instance, the federal corporate tax rate on active business income can be as low as 9%, significantly less than the personal income tax rates which can reach up to 50% depending on one’s income level and province.

Tax Benefits of Incorporation

Incorporating offers multiple tax advantages that are not available to sole proprietorships or partnerships. These include:

  1. Income Splitting: Incorporation allows business owners to split income among family members who are shareholders, potentially reducing the overall tax burden.
  2. Tax Deferral: Profits retained within the corporation are taxed at the corporate rate, which is usually lower than personal tax rates. Taxes on these profits can be deferred until they are distributed to shareholders, allowing for reinvestment and growth within the company.
  3. Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE): When selling shares of a qualifying small business corporation, owners may claim a capital gains exemption, which was $913,630 in 2022. This exemption significantly reduces the capital gains tax payable upon the sale of the business.
  4. Lower Borrowing Costs: Corporations often enjoy easier access to financing and may borrow at lower rates than unincorporated businesses, enhancing their ability to expand and invest.

Special Considerations for Personal Services Businesses

It is crucial for incorporated entities providing services mainly to one client, often seen in personal services businesses (PSB), to understand their specific tax obligations. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) might classify such corporations as PSBs, which are ineligible for the general tax rate reduction and the small business deduction. These businesses face higher tax rates and have limited deductible expenses, which can include salaries and wages paid to the incorporated employee, certain benefits, and legal expenses related to collections.

Incorporation and Professional Guidance

Given the complexities associated with corporate tax filing, including the intricacies of various deductions and exemptions, professional advice is invaluable. Entities like BOMCAS, professional accountants specializing in tax services for incorporated businesses in Canada, play a critical role in ensuring compliance and optimization of tax benefits.

Incorporation offers numerous benefits, from tax savings and liability protection to enhanced credibility and growth potential. Understanding these implications helps business owners make informed decisions about structuring their enterprises for long-term success.

Determining Your Fiscal Year

Determining the fiscal year for an incorporated business in Canada is a pivotal step that sets the foundation for the company’s accounting and tax reporting practices. The fiscal year, also known as the tax year, is the period used by the corporation to report its income and expenses for taxation purposes. Here is a detailed breakdown of how to determine and potentially change your fiscal year:

Establishing the Initial Fiscal Year

  1. Start Date: For new corporations, the fiscal year begins on the date of incorporation. This start date is crucial as it marks the beginning of the corporation’s financial and operational reporting.
  2. Duration: The first fiscal period cannot extend beyond 53 weeks (371 days) from the date of incorporation or amalgamation.

Choosing a Fiscal Year-End

  1. Flexibility in Selection: Corporations, except for certain professional corporations involved in partnerships, have the flexibility to choose their fiscal year-end. This allows businesses to align their fiscal period with operational or industry-specific cycles.
  2. Common Year-End Dates: Many corporations opt for December 31st to coincide with the calendar year, simplifying the comparison of financial performance year over year. However, businesses may select a different year-end, such as March 31st, to align with government fiscal periods or specific business cycles, especially if they are seasonal.

Changing the Fiscal Year

  1. Approval Requirements: To change an established fiscal year, a corporation must write to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting approval. This request should include reasons for the change and the proposed effective date to avoid delays.
  2. Automatic Changes: In certain scenarios, such as corporate bankruptcy or significant changes in control, corporations can change their fiscal year without prior approval from the CRA.

Considerations for Specific Types of Corporations

  1. Professional Corporations in Partnerships: These entities must end their fiscal year on December 31st if they carry on business in Canada, aligning with standard partnership reporting requirements.
  2. Bankrupt Corporacies: Corporations that become bankrupt are required to seek CRA’s approval before changing their fiscal year.

Consulting with Professionals

Given the complexities and implications of choosing an appropriate fiscal year, consulting with professional accountants, such as BOMCAS, can provide tailored advice and ensure compliance with Canadian tax laws. These professionals play an essential role in navigating the intricacies of fiscal decisions, particularly for corporations with complex structures or those undergoing significant transitions.

By carefully selecting and, if necessary, adjusting the fiscal year, corporations can better manage their financial reporting and meet their tax obligations efficiently. This strategic decision influences not only tax filing but also financial planning and analysis throughout the business cycle.

Required Forms and Documentation

T1 vs T2 Returns

Filing taxes for an incorporated business in Canada requires understanding the differences between T1 and T2 tax returns. The T1 tax return is primarily for individuals and encompasses all sources of personal income including employment, self-employment, investments, and other forms of income. It also allows individuals to claim various deductions and credits to reduce their tax liability.

In contrast, the T2 tax return is specifically for corporations. This return covers business income, which includes revenue from sales, investments, and other business activities. Corporations use the T2 form to report their income and to take advantage of various corporate tax deductions and credits. The corporate tax rate applied through the T2 return is generally lower than the marginal tax rate for individuals, potentially resulting in lower taxes owed by the corporation.

Specific Schedules and Forms

For meticulous compliance and to ensure all business activities are accurately reported, corporations must prepare several specific forms and schedules alongside the main T2 return:

  • T2 Corporation Income Tax Return: The primary document required for all corporations, detailing income, taxes owed, and credits.
  • Schedule 1 (Net Income for Tax Purposes) and Schedule 125 (Income Statement Summary): These schedules detail the corporation’s income and deductions to calculate the taxable income.
  • Schedule 8 (Capital Cost Allowance): For reporting depreciation of assets.
  • Schedule 50 (Shareholder Information): Provides details about the corporation’s shareholders.
  • Schedule 100 (Balance Sheet Information): Outlines the corporation’s financial position at the beginning and end of the tax year.
  • Schedule 200 (T2 Corporation Income Tax Return) and Schedule 24 (First-time Filer after Incorporation): Specific for new corporations or those filing for the first time.

Moreover, corporations with specific transactions or financial structures might need to complete additional schedules such as:

  • Schedule 11 (Transactions with Shareholders, Officers or Employees): Details any transactions between the corporation and its insiders.
  • Schedule 3 (Dividend Received, Taxable Dividend Paid, and Part IV Tax Calculation): For corporations that receive dividends from other corporations or pay dividends to their shareholders.

For those seeking professional guidance in navigating these complex requirements, entities like BOMCAS, which specializes in accounting for incorporated businesses in Canada, can provide expert assistance in preparing and filing these forms accurately.

By ensuring all the necessary documentation is correctly filled and submitted on time, corporations can maintain compliance with Canadian tax laws, avoid penalties, and potentially optimize their tax obligations.

Setting Deadlines and Filing Dates

Understanding and adhering to the deadlines for filing taxes is crucial for incorporated businesses in Canada to avoid penalties and ensure compliance with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This section outlines key deadlines and the consequences of missing them.

Examples of Filing Deadlines

  1. Corporate Income Tax Returns: Corporations must file their T2 corporate income tax return within six months of the end of their tax year. The tax year of a corporation is its fiscal period. For example:
    • If the tax year ends on March 31, the filing deadline is September 30.
    • For a tax year ending on August 31, the deadline is February 28.
    • A tax year ending on October 2 mandates an April 2 filing deadline.
  2. GST/HST Returns: The deadlines for these returns vary based on the reporting period—monthly, quarterly, or annually. Generally, for monthly and quarterly filers, the deadline is one month after the end of the reporting period. Annual filers have a deadline three months after their fiscal year-end.
  3. Payroll Remittances: The due dates for remitting payroll deductions depend on the remitter type, which is determined by the average monthly withholding amount from two years prior.
  4. Underused Housing Tax (UHT): For properties subject to the UHT, the deadline for filing a UHT return is April 30, following the calendar year being reported.

Consequences of Missing Deadlines

Failing to meet the CRA’s filing deadlines can result in significant penalties and interest charges for incorporated businesses. These include:

  1. Late Filing Penalties: If a return is filed late, the penalty is 5% of the unpaid tax due on the deadline, plus 1% of this unpaid tax for each complete month the return is late, up to a maximum of 12 months. For corporations that have been previously penalized, the charges escalate to 10% of the unpaid tax, plus 2% for each complete month, up to 20 months.
  2. Repeated Failure to Report Income Penalty: If a corporation does not report income greater than $500 that is required to be included in computing its income for a tax year and any of the three previous tax years, penalties apply. These can be as severe as 10% of the unreported amount or 50% of the difference between the understated tax payable and the amount of tax withheld related to the unreported amount.
  3. Gross Negligence Penalties: Making a false statement or omission on a return can attract a penalty of $100 or 50% of the understated tax, whichever is greater.
  4. Non-Compliant Electronic Filing: Corporations with annual gross revenue exceeding $1 million are required to file their T2 return electronically. Failure to comply results in penalties.

To navigate the complexities of tax filing deadlines and avoid these penalties, corporations may benefit from consulting with professional accountants specializing in tax services for incorporated businesses in Canada, such as BOMCAS. Their expertise can ensure that all deadlines are met, and the filing is compliant with CRA requirements, thus avoiding unnecessary financial consequences.

Recording Income and Expenses

Recording income and expenses accurately is a cornerstone of maintaining a healthy financial status for incorporated businesses in Canada. It not only ensures compliance with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) but also provides a clear picture of the business’s financial health, aiding in better decision-making. Below, we delve into the specifics of recognizing revenue, tracking business expenses, and common mistakes to avoid in this process.

Recognizing Revenue

The Canada Revenue Agency mandates that businesses report income using the accrual method of accounting. This method requires income to be reported in the fiscal period it is earned, irrespective of when it is received. This approach is crucial for compliance and audit prevention, encompassing all revenue streams including main business operations revenue, interest, rental income, and other forms like reimbursed expenses. It’s imperative to include these in your financial records accurately to maintain an accurate profit calculation.

For businesses like SaaS or digital subscription services, revenue is recognized linearly across the service period. E-commerce businesses, on the other hand, recognize revenue when control of goods transfers, which could be at shipment or delivery. This principle ensures that businesses adhere to a five-step revenue recognition model, identifying customer contracts, the contract’s specific performance obligations, the transaction price, and recognizing revenue upon fulfilling each performance obligation.

Tracking Business Expenses

Keeping track of business expenses is essential for claiming deductions and ensuring tax compliance. The CRA allows deductions for reasonable expenses incurred to earn business income, including start-up costs, business fees, salaries, and utilities, among others. If a vehicle or home is used for business purposes, related expenses may also be deductible. It’s crucial to track these expenses throughout the year, using digital tools like QuickBooks Self-Employed, to capture mileage and business expenses efficiently.

For self-employed individuals and freelancers, a partial deduction for meals and entertainment expenses is allowable. However, it’s important to save receipts and prove to the CRA that these expenses were necessary for your business. Recording details of business meals or entertainment expenses, including attendees and discussion points, is advisable to substantiate these deductions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One common pitfall is failing to maintain adequate records of income and expenses. This includes not only tracking receipts but also ensuring all income, including cash or trade (barter), is reported. The CRA has severe penalties for those who fail to report cash payments. Similarly, payments received in trade must be reported as income at their equivalent cash value.

Another mistake is relying solely on bank statements for expense documentation. The CRA requires transaction records from vendors to substantiate expenses, as bank statements alone are not considered valid receipts. Accurate bookkeeping, supported by regular review sessions and the use of accounting software, is vital for avoiding tax filing mistakes and ensuring compliance during CRA audits.

In summary, recording income and expenses accurately is a critical aspect of managing an incorporated business in Canada. By adhering to the CRA’s requirements and utilizing professional guidance from entities like BOMCAS, businesses can navigate the complexities of tax filing, maintain compliance, and optimize their financial operations.

Deductions and Credits

Incorporated businesses in Canada have a range of deductions and credits available to them, which can significantly reduce their taxable income and, consequently, their tax liability. Understanding what can be claimed and ensuring accurate and maximized claims can be complex. Professional accountants, such as BOMCAS, specialize in providing expert advice and services to ensure businesses navigate these intricacies effectively. Below, we delve into eligible deductions and commonly missed opportunities that could benefit your business.

Eligible Deductions

  1. Advertising Costs: Expenses for advertising in Canadian newspapers, television, and radio stations are deductible. This also extends to digital advertising on foreign websites without the Canadian content requirements.
  2. Bad Debts: If an account receivable is determined to be uncollectible within the year and was previously included in income, it can be written off as a bad debt.
  3. Business Taxes and Licenses: Annual license fees and certain business taxes incurred to run your business are fully deductible.
  4. Membership Dues: Fees to maintain membership in trade or commercial associations, along with subscriptions to related publications, are deductible.
  5. Delivery and Freight: Costs related to business delivery, freight, and express services incurred within the year are deductible.
  6. Fuel and Utilities: Expenses for fuel, including gasoline, diesel, and propane, along with utilities like gas, oil, electricity, water, and cable, are deductible if they relate to earning income.
  7. Insurance Premiums: Commercial insurance premiums for buildings, machinery, and equipment used in the business are deductible.
  8. Interest and Bank Charges: Interest on money borrowed for business purposes and bank charges incurred to operate your business are deductible.
  9. Professional Fees: Fees for external professional advice, consulting, accounting, and legal services, including those for tax preparation and filing, are deductible.
  10. Repairs and Maintenance: Costs for minor repairs or maintenance to property used to earn business income are deductible.
  11. Salaries and Benefits: Gross salaries, wages, and benefits paid to employees, including contributions to CPP/QPP, EI, and other employment insurance programs, are deductible.
  12. Travel Expenses: Costs for travel to earn business and professional income, including transportation fares, hotel accommodations, and meals, are deductible.

Commonly Missed Deductions

  1. Home Office Expenses: For those operating their business from home, a portion of home-related expenses such as mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, and maintenance can be deducted based on the proportion of the home used for business.
  2. Capital Cost Allowance (CCA): Depreciation on property, machinery, or equipment used in the business can be claimed through CCA. The Accelerated Investment Incentive allows for an increased first-year deduction on eligible property.
  3. Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED): Expenses for SR&ED activities can be fully deducted in the year incurred or carried forward indefinitely.
  4. Automobile Expenses: Costs related to business use of a vehicle, including fuel, maintenance, insurance, and leasing, can be deducted based on the business-use percentage.
  5. Meals and Entertainment: While generally limited to a 50% deduction, specific scenarios such as feeding a crew on a fishing boat or expenses for long-haul truck drivers can allow for higher deduction rates.
  6. Investment Tax Credits: Hiring apprentices or engaging in specific activities can qualify businesses for investment tax credits, potentially reducing the amount of tax owed.

Incorporated businesses in Canada are encouraged to consult with professional accountants like BOMCAS to ensure they are leveraging all available deductions and credits to minimize tax liabilities. This not only ensures compliance with Canadian tax laws but also optimizes financial performance by reducing overall tax expenses.

Seeking Professional Help

When navigating the complexities of filing taxes for an incorporated business in Canada, seeking professional help can be invaluable. Expert guidance not only ensures compliance with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) but also optimizes tax benefits, ultimately impacting the financial health of the business positively. Below, we explore the benefits of hiring a tax accountant and the importance of using CRA-approved software.

Benefits of Hiring a Tax Accountant

  1. Expertise and Experience: Tax laws are intricate and constantly evolving. Professional accountants, such as those at BOMCAS, possess the expertise and experience necessary to navigate these changes efficiently. They are adept at identifying applicable deductions and credits, ensuring businesses do not miss out on potential savings.
  2. Time-saving: Focusing on tax preparation and compliance can be time-consuming for business owners. By delegating these tasks to a professional, business owners can concentrate on core business activities, fostering growth and innovation.
  3. Error Reduction: The risk of errors in tax filing can lead to audits and penalties. Tax accountants are meticulous in their work, significantly reducing the likelihood of mistakes.
  4. Strategic Planning: Beyond tax filing, accountants offer strategic advice on financial planning, helping businesses make informed decisions that align with their long-term goals. This includes advice on incorporation, forecasting, and compliance with regulations, ensuring the business remains on a path of sustainable growth.
  5. Audit Support: In the event of an audit, having a professional accountant who is familiar with your business’s financials can be a significant advantage. They can provide the necessary documentation and explanations to auditors, reducing stress and potential financial ramifications.

Using CRA-Approved Software

The Canada Revenue Agency certifies commercial tax preparation software packages for use with its Corporation Internet Filing service. This certification ensures that the software is compatible with CRA systems and meets specific criteria for electronic filing.

  1. Accuracy and Compliance: Certified software undergoes a rigorous process with the CRA to ensure it can accurately calculate income tax and comply with filing requirements. While the CRA does not verify spelling or grammatical errors within these packages, it does ensure that the software can correctly process tax-related calculations and formats.
  2. Efficiency: By using certified software, businesses can file their returns electronically, receiving immediate confirmation from the CRA. This process is not only faster but also more environmentally friendly, reducing the need for paper.
  3. Innovative Features: Many certified software products offer innovative features like T2 Auto-fill, which allows for the automatic download of information from the CRA, ensuring that certain return and account balances match CRA’s data. This feature simplifies the tax filing process and reduces the risk of discrepancies.
  4. NAICS Codes Integration: Certified software includes self-identified North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, enabling corporations to accurately describe their main revenue-generating business activity. This feature is crucial for both internet and paper filings, ensuring that businesses are correctly classified according to their primary operations.

In conclusion, the combined use of professional tax accountants and CRA-approved software provides a robust framework for businesses to manage their tax obligations effectively. Entities like BOMCAS play a crucial role in guiding businesses through the tax filing process, ensuring compliance, optimizing tax benefits, and contributing to the overall financial success of the business.

Special Considerations for Dividends and Shareholders

When managing dividends and structuring shareholders for an incorporated business in Canada, it’s essential to navigate the complexities with a keen understanding of tax implications and strategic opportunities. Entities like BOMCAS, professional accountants specializing in tax services for incorporated businesses, can provide invaluable guidance in these areas.

Paying Dividends

Dividends are a method of distributing a corporation’s earnings to its shareholders. The decision to pay dividends involves several considerations:

  1. Tax Implications for Recipients: Dividends are taxed differently than salary or wages. For individuals, dividends received from Canadian corporations come with a dividend tax credit, which aims to mitigate the double taxation effect. The gross-up and tax credit mechanism ensures that income earned through a corporation and then distributed as dividends does not face double taxation.
  2. Eligible vs. Non-Eligible Dividends: The tax treatment of dividends depends on whether they are considered eligible or non-eligible. Eligible dividends come from earnings taxed at the general corporate rate and enjoy a more favorable tax treatment than non-eligible dividends, which are taxed at a lower rate at the corporate level. Corporations must notify recipients of the dividend type.
  3. Dividend Distribution Strategies: Incorporating strategies such as income splitting through dividends can be beneficial. For example, if dividends are paid to family members who are shareholders and in a lower tax bracket, the overall tax burden on the family’s income from the corporation can be reduced.

Structuring Shareholders

The structure of shareholding within a corporation can significantly impact tax efficiency and control:

  1. Direct Ownership: Allowing family members to directly own shares in the business can enable them to utilize the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) on the sale of the business, potentially exempting a significant portion of capital gains from tax. However, direct ownership might not always be practical or desirable due to various tax, legal, and other considerations.
  2. Use of a Discretionary Family Trust: A discretionary family trust owning shares in the business can offer flexibility. This structure allows the allocation of dividends and capital gains to beneficiaries, which can include family members, without them needing to hold shares directly. This can be an effective way to distribute income among family members while maintaining control over the business.
  3. Complexities and Benefits: Setting up a trust as a shareholder involves complexities but offers significant benefits, including potential tax savings and estate planning advantages. Professional guidance, such as that provided by BOMCAS, is crucial in navigating the setup and management of such structures.
  4. Foreign Dividends and Spin-off Shares: Canadian residents receiving foreign spin-off shares must include their value as foreign dividends in their income, with options available to defer taxation under specific conditions. This aspect underscores the importance of understanding the tax implications of international shareholding structures.

Incorporated businesses in Canada must carefully consider their approach to paying dividends and structuring shareholders to optimize tax benefits and align with long-term strategic goals. Professional assistance from experts like BOMCAS can ensure that businesses navigate these decisions effectively, maximizing the benefits while complying with Canadian tax laws.


Navigating the complexities of tax filings for an incorporated business in Canada involves understanding a maze of regulations, leveraging available deductions, and optimizing tax benefits for long-term success. Professionals like BOMCAS specialize in this domain, ensuring businesses not only comply with tax laws but also secure financial health through strategic tax planning and management. The substantive information covered in this article, from recognizing income and tracking expenses to understanding the nuances of dividends and shareholder structures, underscores the importance of meticulous tax preparation and the significant benefits of professional assistance.

For businesses looking to streamline their tax process and ensure accuracy and compliance, engaging with experts who specialize in the tax obligations of incorporated entities in Canada is essential. Discover how BOMCAS can simplify the process of filing taxes for your incorporated business in Canada, optimizing financial outcomes and steering clear of common pitfalls. Their expertise ensures that firms navigate tax season with confidence, making informed decisions that align with both immediate obligations and future financial strategies.