Bookkeeping – why it’s important

One of the concerns I hear on a regular basis is regarding bookkeeping.  Why do I need it and why is it expensive and can I do anything to reduce my costs?

This article covers bookkeeping for corporations; bookkeeping for sole-proprietors may or may not need to be as rigorous depending on your situation.  To be sure always ask your CPA who can advise you for your specific situation.

So you have a corporation and you have contacted your CPA to get the year end done and the question comes up – is your bookkeeping complete?  What does this actually mean and why do I need it done?

What is bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping allows transactions to be categorized and totalled; it also allows the GST and / or PST to be calculated to be able to prepare the GST/PST returns.  Depending on your situation it may also include preparing payroll for you and your employees.

Who can do my bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping is not currently a regulated field so it can sometimes be difficult to find a quality bookkeeper.  Your CPA likely can do the bookkeeping for you if not will be able to provide you names of a quality bookkeeper.  If you want to find a bookkeeper on your own look for someone with certification from IPBC (Institute of Professional Bookkeepers) or CIB (Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping).  You can do your bookkeeping yourself as well as long as you understand how to do it.  There are courses available that can help.  Most people get a bit lost however when it comes to the GST and/or the PST (in BC).  Some of the rules especially the ones around PST can be quite complex.

Why do I need all the receipts, can’t you just go from Bank or Credit Card statements?

Often the receipts are required to determine how much GST / PST was paid.  This information can’t be obtained from the statements.  Particularly for things like utilities, meals and professional services since the amounts aren’t always standard.

Also the receipts tell us if there is something that is not a business expense purchased — many times we see a pack of cigarettes or gum on the fuel receipt for gas.  The cigarettes and the gum would not be considered a business expense so shouldn’t be included.

Sounds time consuming – how long does this take?

Experience shows that it takes about 1 hour for every full page of bank and/or credit card statements that you have for the company.  If you have a lot of company expenses paid by cash or have personal expenses mixed in with the company bank and credit card accounts, that hour can become two hours quite quickly. Being organized and having all the receipts is the best way to keep the costs down.

Is there any way to make this faster / less expensive?

There are tools in the marketplace that can speed up the bookkeeping, services like HubDoc and ReceiptBank will retrieve information from your scanned in receipts that can be imported in to your bookkeeping file.  The service is not free so you need to balance out the bookkeeping fees with the fees from these services.

Online bookkeeping services like QuickBooks and Wave allow connections to most bank and credit card service providers.  The connection will provide a ‘feed’ into your bookkeeping file taking some of the pain out of the data entry.  While some automation does exist, the transactions need to be reviewed to make sure they are classified correctly.  There is a monthly fee for these services but typically is it less than the cost of the bookkeeping.  The longer you use these services the better the classification of the feed gets – thus reducing your bookkeeping costs over time.

For payroll there are 3rd party products like Ceridian and Payworks and most online services like QuickBooks and Wave provide a payroll feature – again for a fee.

OK so I understand what the bookkeeping is and some of the methods to get it done, why do I need it?

Bookkeeping needs to be done to classify the transactions to prepare your tax returns and to prepare financial statements. Different tax rules apply to different types of transactions so it is important that they are classified properly for taxation purposes.  For example, meals and entertainment are taxed at a different rate than office supplies.  Drawings and / or owners contributions for your incorporated company also need to be properly identified as this is directly connected to the income that you are required to report on your personal tax return.  GST returns depend on income being properly recorded and GST on expenses calculated as this offsets the amount of GST you are required to pay.  PST (BC) rules are industry specific and can sometime be quite complex and even contradictory.  Taxes filed incorrectly can result in penalties and interest and in the worst case scenario a CRA audit.

For more information about bookkeeping and getting your bookkeeping done, please contact us at or check out our website at:


Why a virtual Accountant?

By now you have likely heard about Virtual CPA’s, Accountants in the Cloud and even Accountant 2.0.  Are you wondering why you should use a virtual accountant?

Here are some reasons why using a Virtual Accountant might make sense for you.

No need to find parking, child care or even leave your house.  With the technology that currently exists you can meet your accountant right at home using tools like Skype and Google Hangouts.

An accountant that is Virtual (Operates in the Cloud) is more likely to stay up to date with technology and be better able to take care of you and your unique business.

Virtual Accountants are also paperless accountants.  That’s good for the environment, good for you and great for the budget.  Some documents like tax returns can require up to 75 pages of paper.  For EACH tax return.  That’s a lot of paper for a document you aren’t likely to read.  You also get to keep your original documents and you don’t have to worry about losing documents that your accountant gives you.

Tools like QuickBooks online and Xero are more likely to be used by Virtual accountants. Why is that important?  Online accounting tools are able to get you better and more timely information.  No more tracking your income separately on a spreadsheet because it take 3 months to get the bookkeeping done.  Tools like automatic bank and payment feeds means that your information is current.  Finally giving you the tools to actually run your business!

You can still contact your accountant when you are travelling on business because it doesn’t matter anymore where you are.  You can contact when you are on vacation too, but why would you want to?

Curious about Virtual Accounting and what it can do for you?  Contact Michelle @ we discuss how this can work for you and your business.

Virtual Accountant — FAQs

What is a virtual accountant?

A virtual accountant is a real accountant who works in the ‘cloud’.   Virtual accounting allows qualified accountants to offer services remotely. Businesses across the Canada are taking advantage of this efficient, flexible, and cost-effective accounting option so that they can meet their business goals by focusing on their core business.

Why would I want to work with you as a virtual accountant?

This would make sense for you if:

  • You find it difficult to get in to see your accountant.
  • You travel a lot.
  • You live in a small community in Alberta or British Columbia and you don’t have access to a professional accountant (CPA).
  • You already have most of your information online.
  • You prefer to work on line.

Who doesn’t this work for?

  • This wouldn’t make sense for someone who is looking for traditional accounting services. Ie: Face to face in person meetings.
  • It doesn’t make sense if you are uncomfortable being online
  • You don’t want to have your data in the cloud.
  • You prefer to pay someone to manage the paper – want to just hand over the ‘shoebox’.
  • You like the paper and aren’t ready to go online.

If I want to work online can I still meet you?

Of course you can.  We can meet online via Skype or you can come to my office in Kelowna, British Columbia.  I also am regularly in Calgary Alberta and would be happy to arrange a meeting while there.

Is my data safe?

Once your data is online you do lose some control over it.  That is an unfortunate side effect of cloud based systems.  Your banking, your credit card information and even the Canada Revenue Agency are all online these days.  Even if you don’t actively put your information on line – it’s there.  To be safe, use only reputable service providers and make sure you have good passwords that you change regularly.

Who are you?

My name is Michelle Duford.  I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and I am a real person. I am registered to provide public practice services (basically tax services) in British Columbia and Alberta.

I live in beautiful Kelowna British Columbia. I have been doing this since 2002.  I have a systems background and I have embraced cloud technology.

Who is working on my file?

All of your work is done in Canada – nothing goes offshore.  You will be working directly with me and my staff.

What kind of services do you provide virtually?

  • Tax returns and yearend financial statements for small incorporated businesses
  • Tax planning
  • Bookkeeping training and review
  • Bookkeeping if you don’t want to do it yourself
  • Personal Tax returns (for corporate clients)

Ok I am in, what’s next how does this all work?

First contact me and let me know what services you want.  All of my services can be found on my website under ‘Services’.  You can even request a meeting under the ‘Contact Me’ menu.

Once we decide to work together, I will send you an engagement letter to sign as well as estimated fees for your file and a list of things I might need.

How do I get my information to you?

There are a number of ways you can get your information to me.

Shared online folders.  This is simple, you copy your scanned information to a shared folder, we use what we need and put the completed documents there for you to sign

I recommend Sync.Com at  They are based in Canada and provide 5G of storage for free.  The only one in the list that’s 100% Canadian.

While not based in Canada many people are already using the following services.

There are other services out there. As well many cloud based bookkeeping systems let you upload your expenses and bank information directly to your bookkeeping file.  QuickBooks, Wave, Xero for example.  E-courier is more like secure email than a shared folder.  While you still scan in your information, instead of saving to a shared folder it gets sent like an email.  This does not go through regular email channels and is secure so is safe to send things like T4’s, SIN etc.

Are there any online bookkeeping services you recommend?

Yes, while I recommend QuickBooks Online, there are a multitude of online bookkeeping systems you can use.

* Please note that Freshbooks isn’t a complete accounting system, if you use Freshbooks, there is still bookkeeping to be done.

Still have questions?

Send me a email to or call me at: 250-763-7923.

Michelle Duford, CPA


Can I have tax free income?

There are a surprising number of kinds of income that are not subject to tax under the Income Tax Act.  Here are some examples:

Strike pay from a union. (Supreme Court of Canada, 1990 decision in Fries) A union’s cash gift to a member is also usually tax-free.

Damages or compensation for personal injury, including structured settlements and awards from a provincial Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. (Interpretation Bulletin IT-365R2)

Compensation for mental or emotional damage at the workplace, such as harassment of an employee, or for human rights violations. (Several court cases, including Forest (FCA, 2007) and Rae (TCC, 2010))

Lottery or other gambling winnings, unless the taxpayer is so organized and active in gambling that it constitutes a “business” from which the taxpayer could deduct losses if he or she lost money. (Interpretation Bulletin IT-213R, and several court decisions)

Television game show prizes, even where the taxpayer trained to develop expertise in the subject matter. (Tax Court of Canada, 1998 decision in Turcotte)

Gifts (provided they are not disguised employment income or business income).

Income earned in a Tax-Free Savings Account, whether or not it is taken out and spent.

Capital gains on your principal residence, subject to various rules that ensure that the family claims only one “principal residence” at a time. However, if you build a home intending to sell it, but move in first, this exemption will not be available because that gain will be business profit, not capital gain. (ITA paragraph 40(2)(b))

Income of a “status Indian” earned on a reserve. See for details, and extensive case law including the Williams, Bastien, and Dubé decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. (Indian Act section 87, and ITA paragraph 81(1)(a)) [Trivia point: “brgnls” is “aboriginals” with the vowels removed in order that the URL be unintelligible in both official languages, rather than being intelligible in only English.]

Most payments for foster care and similar in-home care that the taxpayer provides, provided the care does not cross the line into being a “business”. (ITA paragraph 81(1)(h))

Welfare and similar social assistance payments. These must be reported as income, but an offsetting deduction is available when calculating taxable income. (ITA 56(1)(u) and 110(1)(f))

Workers’ compensation benefits. Again these must be reported as income, but an offsetting deduction is available when calculating taxable income. (ITA 56(1)(v) and 110(1)(f)(ii))

Many grants under government programs, unless the program is specifically listed as taxable (e.g., ITA 56(1)(n.1), 56(1)(s), Reg. 5500-5503), or the grant relates to your business. (Tax Court of Canada, 1995 decision in Layton; and the general principle that because specific government programs are listed as taxable, others should not be [note that the application of this rule is not entirely certain])

Reimbursements of expenses to volunteers, and reimbursements to parents for the cost of transporting students to school when a school board discontinued bus service. (CRA interpretation letter, noting there is no “source” of income)

Damages for breach of an employment contract before it began. (Supreme Court of Canada, 1996 decision in Schwartz)

Compensation for damage to business operations in some circumstances. (Tax Court of Canada, 1998 decision in Frank Beban Logging and 2014 decision in Henco Inc.; Federal Court of Appeal, 2002 decision in Toronto Refiners & Smelters)

Certain employment benefits (see CRA guide T4130, available on A few examples are: — Employer contributions to a registered pension plan, private health services plan, or various other plans. (ITA 6(1)(a)(i)) — An employer can give an employee up to $500 in non-cash gifts and awards per year, such as for a birthday or Christmas. As well, a separate non-cash “long service” or “anniversary” award of up to $500 can be non-taxable; it must be for at least five years of service or five years since the last such award. (See April 2015 Tax Newsletter 3 — Board and lodging at, and transportation to, a “special work site” where the employee works temporarily, or a “remote work site” that is remote from any established community. — Transportation to the job, if provided directly by the employer. — Uniforms, special clothing, or safety footwear that the employee needs for their job.

Principles for a Payment to be Tax-Free The factors to be considered for a payment to be tax-free (a non-taxable “windfall”) are:

  •  Was there an enforceable claim to the payment?
  •  Was there an organized effort to receive it?
  •  Was the receipt sought after or solicited in any manner?
  •  Was the payment expected?
  •  Was there any foreseeable element of recurrence?
  •  Was this a customary source of income to the taxpayer?
  •  Was this in recognition of anything provided or to be provided by the taxpayer?



Originally published as part of CPA Canada Public Practice Manual April 2015 Newsletter, written by: David Sherman, LLB, LLM.  Some content removed.



Warning about Fraudulent Calls from CRA

Here are some recent examples of CRA fraud attempts:


Caller identifies themself as from CRA and that there has been crimes committed against the CRA and that your file has been submitted to the Federal Court and that there is a warrant out for your arrest.  The call display is area code 647 (Toronto).  Needless to say this is a somewhat distressing call to receive.  If you received this type of call the RCMP Fraud line is 1-888-495-8501.


The culprits pose as employees of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Citizenship and Immigration Canada , threatening jail or deportation if fictitious fees or over-due taxes are not paid.

“The victim is then directed to pay the purported fees through e-transfer, money wire transfer or the purchase of pre-paid gift cards, which they are directed to mail to a specific address,” police said in a release.

CRA officials say they are aware of the scam.


There is also a phone and email scam where a fraudster purports to be a Canada Revenue Agency representative and pressures the potential victim into paying a non-existent debt.

RCMP say they’ve received a number of complaints. Police say people are being called by someone claiming to be from the tax agency who uses threatening and coercive language.

People are also being emailed a link to a website that looks to be the CRA’s and asked to enter personal information.

Police say the revenue agency will never ask for information about your passport, health card or driver’s licence. It will also never leave personal information on an answering machine, or ask you to do the same.

If you want to confirm a call really is from the CRA, call them using a number listed on their website.

Police say you should also ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address or telephone number?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?
  • Is there a reason that the CRA may be calling? Do I have a tax balance outstanding?

For more information on these scams and what to do, go to the CRA site at the following link.

You can also talk to your accountant who will be able to act on your behalf and ensure that the call is legitimate.


Why use a professional accountant?

Kelowna is a city that attracts new people on a regular basis. Known as being business friendly many people move here and immediately start a new business. Of course one of the first things you need as a small business owner is an accountant. Oh where to start!

Start with a professional, you can’t afford not to.

Unlike many other professionals, anyone can call themselves an accountant. The term accountant is not reserved or in any way restricted. This does not mean that a non-designated accountant is not competent, it only means that they do not have to adhere to the standards of professional accountants.

Professional accountants, CGA’s, CA’s and CMA’s study for many years and are required to pass rigorous examinations before they can use their designations. Additionally, professional accountants are required to keep their knowledge up to date, which is closely monitored by the respective associations. Public accountants must go one step further and attend additional training and are required to carry insurance.

If that wasn’t enough every three years, a mandatory practice review is conducted by the associations to ensure the quality of the work performed meets the high standards that you have come to expect.

Ethics play a very big role for professional accountants. What that means is that you should expect professionalism and strong ethics from your accountant or from other professionals you may deal with.

Most people aren’t aware this but regardless of who prepares your tax return, you are ultimately still responsible for its contents.  You want to make sure that it is done correctly.

For more information on professional accountants you can contact one of the three accounting associations in British Columbia —  Certified General Accountants (CGA), Chartered Accountants (CA) and Certified Management Accountants (CMA).  In 2013 all Professional Accountants in Canada have merged and are now Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA)

Get it done right and use a professional accountant!

I am Chartered Professional Accountant serving small businesses in Kelowna and Lake Country.  Please visit my website at: for more information.


Using Online Accounting Systems

So you have decided to take your accounting online.  You are always on the go and it makes life easy for you.  Here are some things for you to consider.

1. Some online systems are not as robust as the desktop.  Wave for example doesn’t let you put in a closing date, so it’s easy to change information in a prior year.  Think that’s a good thing?  Just ask your accountant what they think about prior year changes.  You may find that using a tool like Wave increases your year end fees.

2.  Many online systems don’t use account numbers.  While this makes the accounting system seem more friendly, the accounting systems that your accountant uses, has account numbers.  It makes setting up your year file just a bit more difficult, and more   difficult often means more expensive.

3.  Many of these online systems are subscription based, so as soon as you quit paying you lose access to your data.  Except for printing all the transactions to PDF or exporting to excel, there really isn’t an easy way to back up your information.

4. You don’t know where your data is, nor who has access to it.  It seems like everyday there is a report of a ‘data’ breach somewhere.  Once you put your data online you lose control of it.

5.  CRA hasn’t yet come around to online accounting systems, see the following from the CRA website site.

E-commerce records

Your obligations for maintaining, retaining, and safeguarding books and records when conducting business on the Internet are the same as for any other type of business operation.

These records must be sufficient to determine and verify your tax obligations.

You must keep your business records for a minimum of six years from the end of the latest year to which they relate unless written permission is given by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Your records:

  • must be maintained in Canada unless permission is granted by the CRA to maintain them elsewhere;
  • must be made available to CRA officials upon request; and
  • include electronic records that are maintained and created by computerized record keeping systems.

So yes the online accounting systems can be convenient, but like anything in the cloud — just be cautious.

Want to move your accounting online but not quite sure?  Contact Michelle at or visit the website at:

How to keep your accounting costs down

As a small business, I understand that you are looking to keep your costs down. The easiest way to keep your accounting costs to a minimum is to be organized and not use your accountant as a bookkeeper. Here are some simple tips to get you started.

Get a good bookkeeper (or at a minimum take a bookkeeping course)

If you want to do the bookkeeping yourself, consider moving to the cloud.  If you run a small business check out or  However, before you do this, check out my post regarding online accounting systems.

Both of these sites offer ‘free’ online bookkeeping options for small businesses.

If you are more comfortable working off of your desktop QuickBooks Pro is the way to go.

Keep all your documents, and keep them organized !

CRA requires a minimum of 7 years. For more information on CRA’s retention polices click here .

  • Organize your information by type (ie: Bank statements, fuel expenses, CRA statements etc)
  • Further refine by month or quarter if you have a lot of expenses)
  • Mark on your invoices and bills how they were paid (ie: chq #, company visa, personal debit) and when.
  • If not showing on bill or invoice indicate what was purchased.
  • Keep a travel log of your business travel if you use the same vehicle for both personal and business.
  • Mark on your business lunch receipts who you took for lunch and why.
  • Make sure the receipt is in your business name.

Whatever you do, don’t put your receipts in a box or bag and drop them off to your accountant.  Your fees will definitely go up and you might just be looking for a new accountant next year!

Want to go Paperless?  Check out my post that discusses how to be organized in a paperless setting.

Have more questions?  Feel free to contact me or visit me on my website at


Managing your information in a Paperless world

So you have decided that you have had enough and now you want to go paperless.  Seems to make sense, most of your bank statements, bills, and receipts come online anyway.  Why print them?

Sounds simple enough but like anything, you need a way to organize your documents.  There are many software packages that do just this, two that come to mind are Paperport and Neat, but there are many more available.  Often if you have a scanner the software comes along with it so you don’t even have to buy separate software.  You can also just use file directories on your computer, it doesn’t really matter the important thing is to be organized.

For years I have been giving my clients a system to manage their paper documents.  Recently, I am getting more and more requests about how to manage the information in an electronic or digital setting.  I have come up with a process, it is pretty simple sort of a ‘virtualization’ of the paper folders.

Here’s what I recommend:

Create a file directory(folder) called “Business Info”  <– if you have more than one company, call this the company name.

Under that folder create a folder called “2014” <– or what ever the year is

Under each year create folders for the various categories:

  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Computer and Equipment
  • Advertising Expense
  • CRA documentation
  • Office Expenses

And so on..  If you are not sure, just look at your last years financial statements or ask your accountant for what expense categories apply to your business.

Anything that goes more than one year, put directly under the ‘Business Info’ folder.

Call it “Permanent Documents”.  Things like leases, contracts, incorporation information etc.

Each year just start over again with a new year and create subfolders (directories) for each of the categories that you used in the previous year.

This is easy to manage, easy to back up and very easy to replicate if you have more than one company.  Whether you are just using the file manager of your computer system or a file management system in a document management system, this is an easy way to store and later be able to retrieve your documents.

And please don’t forget to back up your data!!

Once your data is all in ‘electronic’ format, it is very easy to copy to a USB drive or send to your accountant via something like ‘e-courier’.  No paper to lose and your accountant will thank you!  At least I will 🙂

For more information please contact me at or visit my website

What to do when CRA comes calling

Business owners fear the dreaded call from the Canada Revenue Agency(CRA).  After all we have all heard stories about how CRA has taken people’s houses, their boats, frozen banks account.  They have lots of power. But you don’t have to be afraid.  Although CRA does have a lot of power, they generally only rarely wield their stick.

Here is a couple of sure fire ways to get CRA to take your house or freeze your bank account or do some other nasty thing.

  • Don’t pay your taxes
  • Don’t file your taxes
  • Don’t return CRA’s phone calls
  • Don’t answer CRA’s letters

Typically, business owners who file on time, pay on time and respond to queries in a timely manner, have no issues with CRA.  Most accountants will even talk to CRA on your behalf, so you can rest easy.

Here are some basic tips as to what you should do:

File on time

Be aware of filing deadlines and do your best to be on time.

File accurately

While it may be tempting to inflate your expenses and / or deflate revenues, don’t do it.  An audit is unpleasant enough when you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s downright nerve-shattering when you have.

Make sure you know the rules

There is a lot of misunderstanding out there and you and only you are responsible for the information that gets sent to CRA (even if someone else prepares it).  Make sure your preparer is qualified to do the work and keeps up to date with tax rules.

Respond to CRA promptly

If you don’t want to talk to them, get a professional accountant to help.  If you already have an accountant and CRA is still calling you, talk to your accountant about getting them set up as a representative for you with CRA.  The accountant is then authorized to speak to CRA on your behalf.

Keep all your paperwork and documentation

A major source of expenses not being allowed is due to insufficient or incomplete documentation.  Just saying you have the expense is unfortunately not good enough, you do have to be able to prove it.  Also don’t forget to have a good filing system as you have to keep documentation for 7 years.

Have more questions? I am a CGA and I work with businesses in the Kelowna area.  I can be reached at: or by visiting my website at: