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Self-Employed Taxes Canada

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Understanding Self-Employed Taxes in Canada

Being self-employed in Canada has unique difficulties and duties, including handling your tax preparation. This can be a difficult process, particularly for people new to running their own business or who have recently switched from regular employment to self-employment. Self-employed business owners, on the other hand, can navigate the tax system with ease and confidence with appropriate tax planning and a solid understanding of tax deductions. In this thorough guide, we will address the essential procedures involved in self-employed business tax preparation in Canada, as well as crucial tax planning methods and deductions that can help lower your tax bill.

Identifying as Self-Employed

Self-employed individuals, also known as independent contractors or freelancers, are individuals who work for themselves rather than being employed by a company or organization. They operate their own businesses or provide services on a freelance basis.

When filing a tax return as self-employed in Canada, first, you need to determine if you are considered self-employed for tax purposes. We will discuss the characteristics of self-employed individuals and reinforce the key indicators that commonly describe self-employed individuals in Canada.

Income Source

Self-employed individuals in Canada typically earn income from operating a business, practicing a profession, or engaging in a trade, distinguishing them from employees. The source of income is a fundamental distinguishing factor between self-employed individuals and employees in Canada. Self-employed individuals generate income from activities such as:

  • work as a freelancer who provides services to clients with no expectation of ongoing work. Many freelancers work with multiple clients at a time (e.g., freelance writers, designers, and photographers).

  • small business owners that sell products or services (e.g., hair salons, health spas, mom's cafés, meal preparation, daycare, car wash, landscaping service, electronic repairs, e-commerce businesses).

  • running businesses such as delivery services, taxi driving, courier or working for platforms like Uber, Instacart, Skip the Dishes and DoorDash.

  • practicing a profession (e.g., doctors, lawyers, accountants, tutors), or

  • engaging in a trade (e.g., carpenters, electricians, plumbers, cleaners, housekeepers, mechanics).

Indicators of Self-Employment

The following are some signs that an individual is self-employed:

  • Independence: Self-employed individuals typically work independently, managing their own work and business operations.

  • Lack of Oversight: They don't have a boss or supervisor watching over their daily work.

  • Flexibility: Self-employed individuals have the freedom to choose when, where, and for whom they work. They can provide services to different clients simultaneously.

  • Acceptance or Refusal of Work: They have the discretion to accept or decline work from clients or payers.

These characteristics and indications assist individuals and authorities in determining whether someone should be categorized as self-employed for tax and labour purposes. Here is a summary of the main points:

Registering as Self-Employed

When registering as self-employed in Canada, there are a few steps you need to follow.

  • Getting CRA business number (BN): First, register for a business number (BN) with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This is a unique nine-digit number. This is utilized for tax purposes and assists the CRA in tracking your business activity. There can only be one BN for your company.

  • Opening CRA program accounts: Each program has different registration procedures. The program account will be added to your BN once you have one. Frequently needed CRA program accounts for self-employed businesses include:

    • GST/HST (RT), depending on your business activities, you might also need to remit Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). People who make more than $30,000 in worldwide taxable sales in a single calendar quarter or over the last four straight calendar quarters must register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). This includes money made by associated persons. It is very important to follow through with your GST/HST responsibilities.

Overall, registering as self-employed in Canada is an important step in ensuring that your business is compliant with tax laws. It's recommended to consult with a tax professional or accountant to fully understand your tax obligations and to ensure that you are taking advantage of any available tax deductions and credits.

Tracking Business Income and Expenses

As a self-employed individual, it’s important to keep track of your business income and expenses. This will help you accurately report your income and deductions on your tax return. You should keep detailed records of all your business income, expenses, as well as any assets or inventory purchased. You will also need to keep records of any GST/HST you collect from customers and remit to the CRA.

  • Keeping meticulous records of your business income, expenses, assets, and inventory is essential for accurate tax reporting.

  • You must maintain records of GST/HST collected from customers and remit these amounts to the CRA.

By tracking your income and expenses, you will also be able to calculate your business income for the year, which is necessary when filing taxes. You should also be aware of any deductions or credits that you qualify for, as these can help reduce your overall tax burden.

Calculating Business Income

Accurately calculating your business income is crucial for tax purposes. This involves subtracting your business expenses from your business income.

Self-employed Government Assistance

Self-employed people, businesses, farmers, and fishers may have received federal, provincial, or territory government aid. You must report Government assistance and government loans received in the year on your income tax return.

Deductions and Credits for Self-Employed Individuals

  • Various deductions and credits are available to reduce your income tax liability.

  • The Home Office Expense Deduction allows you to claim expenses related to a home office if you use a portion of your home for business.

  • The Motor Vehicle Expense Deduction permits deductions for vehicle expenses incurred for business purposes.

  • You should explore these and other deductions and credits that apply to your situation.

Business Use of Personal Assets

Using personal assets for business purposes is common for self-employed individuals and small business owners. However, it's essential to understand the tax implications and rules associated with using personal assets in your business. Here are some key considerations:

  • Home Office: If you use part of your home exclusively for your business, you can claim a deduction for home office expenses. This includes a portion of your rent or mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, and maintenance costs. To qualify, your home office must be your principal place of business or used regularly and exclusively for business purposes.

  • Vehicle Expenses: When you use your personal vehicle for business purposes, you can deduct a portion of the expenses, such as gas, maintenance, insurance, and depreciation. You'll need to keep detailed records of your business-related mileage and total mileage to calculate the deductible portion accurately.

  • Personal Computer and Equipment: If you use personal computers, smartphones, or other equipment for your business, you can claim a portion of their costs as a business expense. Be sure to keep records of the percentage of business use versus personal use.

  • Cell Phone: If you use your personal cell phone for business calls and data, you can deduct a portion of your cell phone expenses. Again, you'll need to maintain records of business-related usage.

  • Personal Assets Converted to Business Use: If you have personal assets that you decide to use for your business, such as furniture or electronics, you may be able to deduct a portion of their cost as a business expense. The key is to determine the percentage of time these assets are used for business purposes.

  • Asset Depreciation: For certain assets like computers, vehicles, and equipment, you may be eligible to claim depreciation expenses. This allows you to spread the cost of the asset over several years, reducing your taxable income each year.

  • Documentation: To claim these deductions, you must maintain thorough records that clearly demonstrate the business use of these assets. This includes receipts, invoices, mileage logs, and any other documentation that supports your claims.

  • Personal vs. Business Use: It's crucial to maintain a clear separation between personal and business use of assets. Mixing personal and business expenses can lead to complications during tax audits.

  • Consult with a Tax Professional: Tax laws and regulations can be complex, and they may change over time. Consulting with a tax professional who specializes in small business taxation, such as Cloud Accounting and Tax Services can help ensure you're maximizing your deductions while staying compliant with the tax code.

  • Legal Structure Matters: The type of business structure you have (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership) can also impact how you handle personal assets in your business. Different rules and tax treatments may apply depending on your business structure.

Filing Your Self-Employed Taxes

Filing your self-employed taxes in Canada is a critical part of managing your business's financial responsibilities. Here are some key points to consider regarding tax forms, deadlines, and penalties:

Choosing the Right Tax Form

T1 Tax Form

Self-employed individuals in Canada generally use the T1 tax form to report their personal income, including income earned from their businesses. Alongside the T1 form, you'll often need to complete additional schedules and forms to accurately report business income and deductions.

Statement of Business or Professional Activities (Form T2125)

This form is essential for self-employed individuals as it allows you to report your business income, expenses, and deductions. You'll need to provide details about your business, including its nature, gross income, and various expense categories. Accurate completion of this form is crucial to correctly calculate your taxable business income.

Deadlines and Penalties

Tax Filing Deadline

The tax filing deadline for most individuals in Canada is June 15th of each year. However, if June 15th falls on a weekend or a holiday, the deadline may be extended to the next business day. It's important to file your taxes on time to avoid late-filing penalties.

Payment Deadline

While the tax return is due by June 15th, any taxes owed are also due by April 30th. If you owe taxes and miss the payment deadline, you may be subject to interest charges on the outstanding amount.

Late-Filing Penalties

If you don't file your tax return on time, the CRA may impose late filing penalties. These penalties can be significant and can increase the longer you delay filing. Additionally, if you have a history of late filing, the penalties can be more severe.

Interest Charges

If you owe taxes and don't pay them by the due date, the CRA will charge interest on the unpaid amount. The interest rates can change, so it's essential to check the CRA's website for the current rates.

Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP)

If you realize you made an error or omission on a previous tax return and want to correct it voluntarily, you can use the VDP to do so without facing penalties or prosecution, provided certain conditions are met.

Summary of Self-Employment Taxes

Filing self-employed taxes in Canada is crucial to being a responsible resident. Here's a summary of the key points covered in this comprehensive guide:

  • Determine your self-employed status for tax purposes.

  • Register for a business number with the CRA.

  • Be aware of CPP contributions and potential GST/HST obligations.

  • Maintain meticulous records of income, expenses, assets, and inventory.

  • Keep records of GST/HST collected from customers.

  • Subtract business expenses from business income to calculate taxable income.

  • Explore deductions and credits, such as the Home Office Expense Deduction, Motor Vehicle Expense Deduction, and Small Business Deduction.

  • Business Use of Personal Assets

  • Understand how to deduct expenses related to personal assets used for business purposes.

  • Maintain clear records and separation between personal and business use.

  • Choose the right tax forms, typically the T1 tax form and Form T2125 for reporting business income and expenses.

  • Be aware of tax filing and payment deadlines. Most individuals in Canada have an April 30th deadline.

  • Be cautious of late-filing penalties and interest charges for unpaid taxes.

  • Consider the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) if you need to correct errors in previous tax returns.

  • Seek guidance from tax professionals or accountants to ensure compliance and maximize deductions.

  • Understand how your business structure affects tax treatment.

Additional Considerations

  • Report income from self-employment on your tax return.

  • Register for GST/HST if revenue exceeds $30,000 over a specific period.

  • Keep thorough records supported by original documents, including electronic records.

  • Retain supporting documents for at least six years from the later of the end of the tax year or the filing date.

  • Be prepared to pay tax instalments if you earn income without tax withholding, receive certain pension payments, or have income from multiple sources.


In conclusion, self-employment in Canada comes with tax responsibilities that require attention to detail and adherence to tax laws. With proper planning, record-keeping, and knowledge of available deductions and credits, you can manage your self-employment taxes effectively and reduce your overall tax liability. Staying informed about tax regulations and seeking professional advice when needed will help you navigate the complexities of self-employment taxation in Canada with confidence. For more detailed information, visit Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).


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