let's talk tax time.

image from the New School of Finance

Did anyone else just shudder
at the thought of taxes?

That's definitely my reaction. Let's get serious - nobody really talked taxes in school...other than "don't forget to set aside money for taxes" and "register for a GST number when you make $30,000."

What does that "setting aside money for taxes" even mean?

I remember having one class in which a teacher actually spent about 20 minutes going over taxes...and it was only because a question had been asked during our outreach class.

The question, by the way, was "if we can charge $75 per hour and work 40 hours per week, we should be able to make like $150,000 per year - right?" and our teacher laaaaughed. This launched an explanation of how much we would realistically make. Spoiler alert: it wasn't $150,000.

So with that vague introduction to taxes, I started working as a self-employed massage therapist.

The first "year" of practice was only six months because I wasn't registered until July, and I wasn't crazy busy so tax time came and I owed about $750. Gulp, but not insurmountable. I paid the bill and continued with my second year of practice.

I was busier.

I registered for GST (this was pre-HST) and went on my merry way, not really thinking about the ramifications of all the work I was doing. I threw as much money as I could onto student loans + debt that had accumulated while I was in school, thinking I was being so responsible.

My sister (who is an accountant) had created this wonderful spreadsheet for me to so my book keeping, so I tracked my income and expenses diligently. I had some write offs and a bit saved for taxes, but quickly found out that it was not nearly enough.

My next tax bill was $7,500. 

*jaw drop*

AND I still had student loans and a line of credit to pay off.

This kicked off my tumultuous relationship with the CRA. 

I was shocked by what had happened, even though I thought I had a grasp on things. I worked my butt off that third year to pay off my taxes (and still plug away at that student debt). The end of the year came and I had finally paid my taxes from the year before, but I hadn't been able to afford the quarterly instalments for taxes so when my NEXT tax bill hit...

It was $8500.

I was like, SERIOUSLY?!

This is when things started to get bad.

I was so frustrated with the whole self-employment thing, that I started to fall behind on my GST remittances and tracking my book keeping. So the letters started to come in the mail, and the phone calls began.

I avoided them. My heart would actually start racing every time I got a dreaded brown envelope in the mail. So I stopped opening them. (Heads up - this is NOT a good strategy.)

It became like a (very stressful) game for me. At one point, I didn't recognize the number on my phone and answered...it was the CRA. My response was, "oh - you found me!"

The agent didn't think I was funny.

So here I am - in my 7th year of practice...and I'm STILL stuck in the cycle of paying off my tax bill from the year before. I have had a review done because of discrepancies in my GST + income tax returns (thanks to poor book keeping) and have spent hours and hours poring over the (confusing as F) CRA website trying to figure out how to clean things up.

I have a love/hate relationship with taxes...without the love.

You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this story.

It's because this week, I came across a course that has actually revolutionized my understanding of + relationship with taxes. I know - I didn't think it was possible!

It's called Sole Prop School by the New School of Finance, created by the incredible Shannon Lee Simmons.

I don't usually say that a course is a "must" for everybody, but honestly...unless you're a certified accountant, this course is a MUST. If you work as a massage therapist, I am 97% sure that you are self-employed, and 99% sure that you don't quite know what's going on with taxes. These classes explain EVERYTHING - and it's totally specific to Canadians.

At least once a week, I see a question about GST/HST or write-offs come up in the Facebook groups for RMTs that I am in. And, the responses are all over the place - it's usually hard to know which answer is right.

Can you imagine listening in on a group of accountants give advice about massage therapy? It's kind of like that - it makes no sense! 

sole prop school takes ALL THE GUESSWORK out of your taxes. 

The program is made up of four courses:

The classes are priced at $197 each, or you can get all four for $647. And before you start with "I can't afford that," stop yourself and ask if you can afford a $7000 tax bill, or if you can afford to spend hours trying to figure stuff out on your own, or if you can afford the stress of being unprepared for an audit. Remember - you're self-employed...your time is so incredibly valuable.

Whenever you can free up time spent on non-revenue earning activities (like bookwork) you are creating more time to earn money...or do something that you actually love. Like hiking. Or hanging out with your family. Or binge watching Netflix.

All of those things are more fun than worrying about taxes.

Even if you aren't in a place to buy the whole course, start with Don't Get Eff'd at Tax Time and the GST/HST course. You'll walk away actually understanding how to organize your expenses so you can make the most of write offs. The resource library (which explains the specifics of - literally - everything you can write off + how to do it) is worth the cost of the course on its own. 

With the GST course, you won't just understand the basics of when to register for a GST number - you'll get the whole picture. Like what you're selling a service? A physical product? A digital product? What's an input tax credit? What if you live in Ontario (13% HST) and you want to travel to Alberta (5% GST) to teach a continuing ed course? How does that affect the taxes you charge + remit? 

Right - I had NO IDEA that those things changed. Now, I know. All the CRA jargon is explained in a way that actually makes sense. *mind blown* It was like having a huge weight taken off my shoulders.

I could honestly go on and on about how jazzed I am about this program - my husband is sick of me talking about it. So please - make the best decision you can make for your business, and get educated about your finances. You will save so much money and overwhelm by understanding the way our tax system works.

So get your pretty butt over to the Sole Prop School, and save yourself the tax horror story that I have to my name.

And then, let me know in the comments - am I alone in this experience? Does anyone else have a seriously stressful relationship with their tax situation? How have you coped? 

Until next time,