Helping businesses move into the future

As a Liaison Officer (LO) with the CRA, Tim is used to giving presentations to all kinds of businesses. He wasn’t sure what to expect, though, when he gave a presentation to aspiring entrepreneurs at a community college in Nova Scotia and then was asked to deliver it to some high school classes. Walking in, he wondered how interested the kids would be.

“Then they started asking questions and one kid, in the tenth grade, told me he had just started running a business at lunchtime at the school,” Tim laughs. “He was cutting the hair of other students and charging a fee – and he had lots of questions about the rules on that. It was surprising, the entrepreneurial spirit they have at that age!”

Tim is currently an LO in Atlantic Canada, serving large parts of Nova Scotia. Working in this part of Canada means he helps a wide variety of businesses – from restaurants, electricians, construction and retail, to self-employed artisans making things like leatherworks, pottery and paintings, to farmers in the rural areas to lobster, crab and other fishermen near the ocean.

The LO service supports new small businesses and self-employed individuals by helping them to accurately file their returns for income tax, as well as GST/HST. They also help business owners avoid and correct the most common errors. Through this program, officers provide tools, information, and support to help businesses manage their tax matters correctly from the start.

“I enjoy this job very much,” says Tim. “It’s about building trust – and also about setting people up so that they can do their taxes going forward. Many are nervous when we first meet them, but they quickly see that what we’re providing is a comfort level of how to move into the future. Things like revenue and expenses can seem complicated, but we break it down and make it easier – we show them that they can do it. We show them how to handle their books and records and also how to be organized. The more organized someone is, the easier it is to do taxes.”

Right up front, Tim tells his clients that sessions are flexible and that they can ask whatever questions they have. At the end of each meeting, he provides the client with a copy of his presentation so that when they sit down to do their taxes they have all the steps right in front of them. He leaves them with a list of resources, too, if they need further information in the future.

“It’s natural that people will have questions going forward, especially now that so many businesses are shifting to online operations,” says Tim. “We have businesses offering services online that would have been unheard of before, like physiotherapists. And many artisans that I work with are now selling their products all across Canada, instead of at their local farmer’s markets. This is all new to them and so they have questions.”

Working where he does, Tim also provides flexibility of when people can meet with him. He knows, for example, that those who fish for lobster are out on the ocean different parts of the year than those who fish for crab or tuna, and that farmers won’t be available during certain times of the year.

“In those cases it can be difficult to set up meetings, so I have calendars, for example, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and I make sure to set up meetings when I know people will answer their phones and be available. I know that if someone is out planting crops or out on a boat – I need to accommodate that. Things have been hard for businesses. I am so happy to be there when it works for them and to help in any way that I can.”

This story is appearing as part of a series to promote the tax filing deadline for self-employed individuals (and their spouses) on June 15, 2022. Self-employed individuals continue to work hard to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The CRA has tools to help them meet their tax obligations, including services like the Liaison Officer (LO) service, which the CRA offers at no cost to owners of small businesses and self-employed individuals to help them understand their tax obligations.

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