20 Biggest Tax Write-Offs for Small Businesses in Canada (Save Thousands!)

Navigating the world of tax deductions can be daunting for small business owners in Canada. This article will simplify the process and help you understand 20 essential tax write-offs, starting from the easiest to the more complex ones.

From meals and entertainment to employee compensation and advertising costs, you’ll learn how to maximize deductions and keep more of your hard-earned money. By the end, you’ll have a clear blueprint to manage your expenses and make tax season less stressful!

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about 20 essential tax deductions for small businesses.
  • Discover how to deduct costs for meals, entertainment, and travel.
  • Understand the importance of tracking business expenses accurately.

Simple Tax Deductions

Meals and Entertainment

Business owners can deduct 50% of meal and entertainment costs when they are for business purposes. This means if you take a client out for a $200 dinner, you can claim $100 on your tax return. The reason for the 50% limit is that part of these expenses are considered to benefit you personally.

Office Expenses

Most businesses have office-related costs that are easy to deduct. These expenses can include rent for office space, utilities, and office supplies like paper, pens, and printers.

Home Office Expenses

For those who work from home, a portion of home expenses can be deducted if part of the home is used regularly and exclusively for business. This includes mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. Determine the deductible amount by calculating the percentage of your home used for business.

Vehicle Costs

If a vehicle is used for business purposes, such as visiting clients or picking up supplies, a part of the vehicle’s costs can be deducted. This includes gas, repairs, insurance, lease payments, parking fees, and depreciation. To determine the deductible amount, calculate the percentage of total driving that was for business purposes.

Business Travel

When traveling for business, a variety of costs can be deducted. This includes transportation, accommodation, meals, and incidentals like tips and Internet fees. All travel expenses must be directly related to business activities.

Financial Management Fees

Certain fees related to managing business finances are deductible. This includes bank charges, credit card processing fees, and other financial transaction costs. Keeping accurate records of these fees is important.

Professional Fees

Fees for professional services like legal advice, accounting, and consulting are deductible. This includes services like drafting contracts or preparing tax returns.

Digital Tools and Platforms

In today’s digital world, subscriptions to software and online tools are deductible business expenses. This includes project management software and cloud storage services. The subscription fees for these tools can be fully written off.

Intermediate Tax Deductions

Employing Family Members

Hiring family members for business tasks can be a practical and financially smart strategy. You can deduct their salaries if the compensation reflects the work they perform and is reasonable. Treat family members’ employment like any other employee to meet CRA standards. This approach not only aids in business operations but also retains funds within the family.

For instance, hiring a family member to manage social media accounts at $20 per hour for 20 hours a week sums up to 1,040 hours annually. This translates to a deductible business expense of $20,800. If your business’s taxable income is $100,000, the salary reduces the taxable income to $79,200.

Depreciating Business Assets

Equipment depreciation, also known as capital cost allowance (CCA), allows businesses to depreciate the cost of assets like computers, machinery, or furniture over multiple years. Rather than deducting the entire purchase cost in one year, businesses apply specific CRA depreciation rates for different asset classes.

For example, a computer falls under class 50, which has a 55% depreciation rate. If a computer costs $2,000, the first-year depreciation would be $1,100 (55% of $2,000). The remaining balance can be depreciated in subsequent years. This method ensures more accurate deductions over the lifespan of the asset.

Advanced Tax Deductions

When it comes to advanced tax deductions, there are several strategies that can significantly reduce your taxable income.

Capital Cost Allowance (CCA)

Purchasing large assets for your business? You can’t deduct the entire cost upfront. Instead, through Capital Cost Allowance (CCA), the cost is spread out over several years. The CRA assigns each asset to a specific class with a set depreciation rate. For example, computers fall under a class with a 55% rate, while furniture might have a 20% rate.

Incorporation Expenses

If you’ve incorporated your business, the costs involved in the process are deductible. This includes legal fees, accounting charges, and other expenses directly associated with setting up your corporation.

Research and Development (R&D) Credits

Businesses that invest in R&D can claim tax credits for these activities. Eligible expenses include salaries, materials, and overhead costs directly related to research projects.

Employee Stock Options

Offering employee stock options can lead to tax deductions. When employees exercise their stock options, the difference between the market price and the exercise price can be deductible, but specific rules apply.

Business Losses Carryforward

If your business incurs a loss, you can carry it forward to offset future taxable income. This means that losses from one year can reduce taxable profits in future years, leading to significant tax savings.

Cost of Goods Sold

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) is a crucial figure for any business. This number represents the direct costs attributable to the production of the products that a company sells. These costs include the expense of materials and labour directly used to create the good. Here’s a breakdown of the different aspects of COGS:

Key Components of COGS

  1. Raw Materials: The basic materials used in production. These can include parts, ingredients or any other materials essential to create the final product.
  2. Direct Labour: Wages for the employees who are directly involved in manufacturing the goods. This includes their salaries, wages, and any benefits.
  3. Manufacturing Overhead: Costs related to production that aren’t direct labour or materials, like factory utilities, depreciation of production equipment, and maintenance of the manufacturing space.
  4. Freight-In Costs: Shipping fees for getting raw materials to the place of production.
  5. Packaging Costs: Expenses for packaging the goods if it contributes to the manufacturing process.

Example Calculation

Let’s say a company produces handmade furniture. Here’s an example of how to compute COGS for one financial period:

Raw Materials (Wood, Nails)$5,000
Direct Labour$10,000
Manufacturing Overhead$3,000
Freight-In Costs$500
Packaging Costs$1,000
Total COGS$19,500

Importance of COGS

COGS directly affects a company’s gross profit. The formula is:

Gross Profit = Revenue – COGS

Understanding and controlling COGS helps in pricing products correctly and maintaining profitability. Tracking COGS can also provide insights into areas where the business might be able to reduce costs.

Tax Implications

COGS is a deductible business expense. By deducting these costs, businesses can lower their taxable income, which can result in significant tax savings because only the remaining income after COGS is subject to taxes.

Tips for Managing COGS

  • Accurate Tracking: Keep detailed records of all direct and indirect costs associated with production.
  • Use Software: Implement accounting software to automate and track COGS accurately.
  • Regular Review: Periodically review COGS to identify trends and areas where costs can be reduced.

Effectively managing COGS can lead to better profitability and more opportunities for expansion and investment in the business. Keeping an eye on these expenses ensures that businesses can maintain healthy financial practices and stay competitive in their markets.

Advertising and Marketing

Promoting a business is crucial for success, and advertising expenses are typically deductible. These can include traditional methods like print ads and TV commercials as well as digital marketing efforts such as Google ads, social media promotions, and email marketing campaigns. It’s important that these advertisements directly relate to the business operations.

Types of Deductible Advertising Expenses

  • Print Advertising: Newspapers, magazines, flyers, and brochures.
  • Broadcast Advertising: Television and radio spots.
  • Digital Marketing:
    • Google Ads: Pay-per-click campaigns targeting specific audiences.
    • Social Media: Sponsored posts and advertisements on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
    • Email Marketing: Campaigns targeting customers through email blasts and newsletters.

Tracking Advertising Expenditures

For a business to benefit from advertising deductions, accurate tracking of expenses is essential. Proper records ensure legitimate deductions and offer insights into the return on investment. Here are some tools and methods to help:

  • Software Tools: Apps and software like QuickBooks can help manage and categorize advertising expenses.
  • Spreadsheets: Maintaining a detailed log of expenditures helps in organizing and presenting expenses to tax authorities.
  • Invoices and Receipts: Keeping all receipts and invoices can provide proof of expenditure when needed.

Investing in advertising not only drives business growth but also offers valuable tax benefits, making it a strategic part of any business plan.

Employee Compensation

Employee compensation in Canada includes salaries, wages, and benefits. These costs are fully deductible and encompass base pay, bonuses, and commissions. It’s essential to include perks such as health insurance and retirement contributions.

Salary Example

  • Base Pay: Regular hourly or annual salary.
  • Bonuses: Payments for exceptional work or meeting targets.
  • Commissions: Earnings based on sales or performance.


  • Health Insurance: Coverage for medical expenses.
  • Retirement Contributions: Payments into pension plans or retirement funds.

Employers must ensure accurate records of these expenses. Technology, such as accounting software, can streamline this process.

Tracking Expenses

Careful tracking of all compensation-related expenses is crucial. This includes utilizing apps or software to ensure accurate and efficient record-keeping.

In summary, understanding employee compensation and related professional fees can lead to significant tax savings for businesses, emphasizing the importance of accuracy and proper documentation.

Expense Tracking and Technology

Tracking expenses accurately is crucial for minimizing tax liabilities. Here are some useful tips and tools for keeping track of business expenses:

  • Use Expense Tracking Apps: Several apps automate the tracking and categorizing of expenses. Popular options include QuickBooks, Xero, and Freshbooks. These tools can link directly to bank accounts and credit cards to simplify data entry.

  • Keep Receipts and Documentation: Store digital copies of all receipts. Apps often have features that allow for photo capture and automatic categorization. Keeping records organized helps during audits and ensures no deduction is missed

  • Implement a Consistent System: Regularly update and review expense reports. Weekly or monthly reviews can help catch errors and provide a better understanding of spending patterns.

Types of Trackable Expenses

  1. Meals and Entertainment: Deduct 50% of meal and entertainment costs that are business-related.
  2. Office Expenses: Include rent, utilities, and office supplies.
  3. Home Office Expenses: Deduct a portion of home expenses if part of the home is used for business.
  4. Vehicle Expenses: Track and deduct a percentage of vehicle-related costs based on business use.
  5. Travel Expenses: Include transportation, accommodation, meals, and incidentals if directly related to business activities.
  6. Bank Fees: Deduct bank charges and credit card processing fees.
  7. Professional Fees: Include legal, accounting, and consulting fees.
  8. Software Subscriptions: Deduct costs for essential digital tools and platforms.

Technology and Financial Management

Using technology can streamline financial management. Expense tracking software can offer:

  • Automated Categorization: Automatically categorize expenses to the correct tax categories, saving time.
  • Mileage Tracking: Apps can track mileage through GPS, simplifying vehicle expense calculations.
  • Tax Preparation Integration: Some tools integrate with tax preparation software, smoothing the transition from expense tracking to filing taxes.

Proper expense tracking not only aids in accurate tax reporting but also provides insights into spending habits, helping businesses make informed financial decisions.

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Christopher Liew, CFA

Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with over 15 years of Canadian finance experience.