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Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Business Chat - psst, have you heard? we're talking about money

We need to talk.

There’s something we have to discuss. It’s a nasty, dark subject that makes a lot of people cringe. But I can’t let this go any longer, it must be addressed. It’s money.

Money is one of those subjects that as soon as it’s brought up, makes people squirm, hum and haw and then change the subject. As crafters we’d much rather talk about pretty shiny things but unfortunately those pretty shiny things are bought with money. As much as we like to think that we’re just doing what we like to do to make the world a better place, the underlying structure of our world is run on money.

Money is not dirty or evil. Making money as a crafter doesn’t mean that you are less of an artist. You have not sold your artistic soul. Making money as a crafter means that you can buy more pretty shiny supplies. You can hire people if you need to and pay them a decent wage. You can support your crafty friends by buying their work. You can maybe even support yourself and your family with your work.

There are a lot of different areas of the money conversation. We need to talk about making money, spending money and managing money. Too much for this one blog post. It’s a subject that’s going to come up every couple of weeks because money does make the world go round. And we’re here to make sure it looks pretty as it does.

First up in the money conversation is that darn tax subject. HST - harmonized sales tax. Again. It’s not going away, it’s required, here’s how it works.

You are legally obligated to collect HST if your sales are greater than $30,000. This is gross sales, not net. If your company is incorporated then the HST number is tied to the corporation. If you are a sole proprietor, a partnership or selling without registering your business then the HST number is tied to YOU personally. As soon as your self-employed income reaches $30,000 then you are required to collect HST.

Should you decide to be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand let me tell you, when (and not if) the government finds you they will not be very understanding. The responsibility to know and comply with the law is on your head. Telling the auditor that you didn’t know will not make the penalty fees any less. 

Let’s look at 2 examples. Mark is a part-time teacher and stained glass artist. Debby is a free-lance (self-employed) yoga teacher and a jewelry designer.

Last year Mark made $20,000 as a teacher and $11,000 from his stained glass work for total sales of $31,000. Now, as a teacher he works for someone else, the income is already taxed, he receives a T4 and this doesn’t count towards his self-employment sales. For HST purposes his sales are $11,000 and he doesn’t have to collect HST.

Debby made $20,000 as a yoga teacher and $11,000 from her jewelry work for total sales of $31,000. As she is self-employed for both streams of slaes for HST purposes her sales are $31,000 and she is legally required to collect HST on both her yoga classes and her jewelry work. It wouldn’t matter if Debby had registered either of her occupations as an actual business.

If you are collecting, then the HST is collected on both retail, consignment and wholesale sales. Retail is directly to the public, wholesale and consignment is to stores.

Sometimes it makes sense to register and collect HST even if your sales are not at $30,000. The advantage to registering for HST and collecting is that you receive back any HST you have spent for your business. If you spent $10,000 last year on supplies, phone, internet, booth fees, etc then you have spent $1,130 on HST. If you are collecting HST on your sales then you can claim back this $1,130. These are called ITCs – Input Tax Credits.

I hear a lot of chatter from new people about “oh, I don’t have time to do all that work tracking HST”. “I can’t be bothered, it’s too much effort”. Really? Who among us isn’t spending $10,000 a year? How much more do you have to sell to make $1,130? Why not just do a bit of paperwork and get your money back?

Keeping track of your HST collected and paid is a simple thing. It doesn’t require accounting software or hours of your life. It is not difficult. What is does require is a bit of regular work. I am a full-time artist, doing 3 or more craft shows every month. I spend approximately one hour a month doing my bookkeeping which includes tracking my HST. I run my bookkeeping on an excel spreadsheet. One hour a month people, that’s all it takes. Next time I’ll run through exactly what I do every month to keep my little ship afloat.

PS. The government has several websites with all the appropriate information on them. They are clear as mud. I have had very good luck with the people manning the phones at 1-800-959-5525. Just keep pressing buttons until you find a human. They know what they’re talking about and they don’t bite.

PPS. The HST exists in BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as of August 2012. For the other provinces these rules are the same for the GST/PST. For example, if you are in Manitoba and your sales are $31,000 then you must collect 5% GST and 7% PST. If you are in Alberta and your sales are $31,000 then you must collect 5% GST. For the taxes applicable to your province see the following chart. 














Do yourself a favour, be very honest with yourself. Keep your books up to date so that you know your real numbers. If you should be collecting tax then do it. If  you aren’t there yet ask yourself when or if you are going to be at that point. 

Just think of all the things you could do with all that tax money you have already spent! 

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