In this weeks episode, Matt and Adam chat with CPA Sean Marek from M Group Chartered Professional Accountants about the “do’s and don’ts” of real estate investment accounting. Want to save yourself some money and avoid being audited on this year’s taxes? Have a listen now!
Hello, hello, hello. This is the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast.
Adam: And welcome back to Vancouver Real Estate Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Scalena.
Matt: And I’m your other host, Matt Scalena.
Adam: Matt, we’ve got a super informative episode today.
Matt: This is one that I think people are going to love to listen to the first time and return to more than once.
Adam: I think you have to.
Matt: Yeah. Well not only do you have to
Adam: It’s dense.
Matt: but it’s also a useful episode to listen to over the course of your investing life, you know.
Matt: I think this is one that I’m going to go back to a few times.
Adam: I agree and one of the number one questions we get from investors is related to taxes, right? We get several questions related to taxes.
Adam: Should I buy this in my corporation? Am I going to have to pay capital gains? How much are capital gains?
Adam: Tons of questions, right?
Adam: And who better than Sean Marek from M Group, CPA Accounting Firm in Vancouver to speak to that.
Matt: Well, yeah. The funny thing there is that we get those tax questions every day and the common response from us is consult an accountant.
Matt: And the next question, of course, is do you have a good accountant.
Matt: So let’s just say it right here. Sean Marek
Adam: is a great accountant. Yeah and we’ve been trying to get him on for a while. Obviously accountants are busy. Sean’s a very busy guy
Adam: but we’ve got him today. He has 6 Do’s ad 6 Don’ts for investing in real estate and minding your taxes.
Matt: Yeah, which is a super useful subject
Matt: so we’ll wait for that.
Adam: But Matt, maybe before we get to our interview with Sean we want to do some housekeeping. We’ve got the stats, have just been released for February.
Matt: The February stats are out. We should say before we get to the stats, it’s our 50th episode.
Adam: Oh yeah. I forgot about that. That’s amazing.
Matt: The balloons just dropped in here.
Adam: Yeah. Braden, are you are you controlling the balloons?
Matt: Brady D just missed.
Adam: Thanks. Oh God, even the studio is better with Braden.
Adam: But, no, it is our 50th episode so if you want to say congratulations, rate us on iTunes or get in touch.
Adam: We always want to hear from you.
Matt: That is vancouverrealestatepodcast.com. You can also find the VREP Live Wire there so get over there. Check it out.
Adam: Sign up.
Matt: Yeah. Anyway, stats are out. Interesting month for the stats. Basically since the Foreign Buyers Tax, August of 2015,
Matt: we’ve seen kind of nothing exciting in the stats, largely flat, slight declines.
Adam: Right. Mostly balanced overall but
Matt: Mostly balanced and you know, we’ve had discussions about how accurate that is in past episodes but what’s interesting about February is we’re hitting the spring market in 2017
Matt: and stats, especially in condos, they’re up.
Adam: That is the big news story. Condos are up and for sure downtown condos are busy, right?
Matt: Yeah, I mean, well hey, the sales ratio, anything under 700 K downtown it’s over 80% across the board sales ratio
Matt: so more than 8 out of 10 listings are selling.
Adam: That’s incredible.
Matt: And on the west side overall it’s closer to 50%s sales ratio but we’re up 3.9% on the west side of Vancouver which is basically like, hey, let’s go back a year ago and look at the stats then. We’re seeing 4% increase in a month is crazy.
Adam: Yeah. For sure and I know, we’re getting, our listings are getting a lot of calls and a lot of activity so I mean that makes a lot of sense. What about just overall? So
Matt: Yeah. Well the east side as well is up as well with 1.7% 57% ratio so 6 out of 10. Condo market is basically on fire. The change, of course, from last year, I think, is that this is being driven largely by a lack of supply.
Adam: Yeah. Low inventory, right?
Matt: There’s basically nothing out there so….
Adam: And you’re reading that in the paper. So sales volume might be down in certain areas but we do have low inventory.
Matt: That’s right.
Adam: But sales ratios overall if you’re looking at condos or townhomes expect the market to be busy in Vancouver proper. How about the detached market?
Matt: Detached market, not a lot has changed. Basically flat. The west side is up, well you know .1 of a percent.
Matt: So balanced. The east side is down a percentage point in February. Sales ratios here are closer to balanced markets. We’ve got 17% on the east side, we got 13% on the west side.
Adam: So buyers’ best bet?
Matt: West side house.
Adam: West side house or east side house, right?
Matt: But yeah, I was going to say, but the one thing we wanted to, that we were talking about before we went live here, is a lot of realtors buying houses on the east side, right now.
Matt: Of course we have nothing to back this up but I can say the houses that are selling on the east side are being bought by realtors so
Adam: According to Facebook.
Matt: Well, hey, it’s a good way to monitor.
Adam: We’ll footnote Matt’s Facebook Profile with his password and user name.
Matt: But no, it’s a useful, I think it‘s a useful point to bring up because you know realtors are on the front lines and they’re buying up houses on the east side right now so.
Adam: For sure. Makes sense. Alright Matt, maybe without further ado, let’s cut to our interview with Sean Marek.
Matt: Our 50th episode interview with Sean Marek, tax accountant. Enjoy guys.
Adam: Can’t wait.
Adam: Okay so we are here with Sean Marek, from the M Group CP A Accounting Firm with offices in Vancouver and Winnipeg. How are you doing, Sean?
Sean: Great guys. Thanks for having me.
Matt: Hey, thanks for coming in, Sean.
Adam: Okay Sean, so we brought you on today. We’re talking about accounting and real estate investing in Canada.
Matt: A hot topic.
Adam: Very hot topic. A lot of people have questions for us. The reality is you got to consult an accountant. Maybe we can just start with some Don’ts
Adam: for investors in accounting.
Adam: What are some things, common mistakes,that you see on the ground?
Sean: Well, first of all they try to file their own taxes when they are new to real estate investing. Not having any idea or any training or knowing anything about it and usually they claim way too much in terms of losses and get themselves audited. So I wouldn’t recommend that.
Adam and Matt: Right. Right.
Sean: So you, at least in the first year, so you kind of have an idea, have an accountant set it up for you and do a proper tax return so you know what you can and can’t deduct or just, you know, schedule some time with an accountant and ask them what can I deduct, what can I not.
Adam: Right. So maybe rule # 1 is hire a professional.
Sean: Yeah, shouldn’t that always be the first rule?
Sean: I always say to my dentist clients, I don’t do my own dentistry so you probably shouldn’t do your own accounting.
Matt: Fair enough.
Matt: Number 2?
Sean: So don’t deduct everything as a current expense. Okay, that’s probably what I see most of. So for example, if you buy a place and you fix it up to rent it out, anything that you do to that place is capital, meaning it has to be added to the cost of the house. You can’t deduct it.
Sean: So that means that’s everything. That’s from putting in, you know, painting, putting in a new doorknob. It’s all capital. It all has to get added to the cost of the property which means it gets written off slowly only 4% over time. The mistake people make is trying to deduct $50,000.00 worth of repairs in the first year when they buy the rental property. No, no almost sure to get you audited. Also CRA’s view, Canada Revenue Agency’s view is almost everything is capital okay so you replace a window so they say so you replaced it with a better window so that’s capital. You can’t deduct that. You got to add that to the cost of the building. So I see a lot of that where it really shouldn’t be deducted it should be added to capital. And if you have someone helping you with your taxes, say an accountant, they would sort of help you make those assessments, rather than just deduct it all.
Matt: To avoid the audit. Fair enough.
Sean: Which are not fun. And especially in the last few years there’s been a lot of look at rental losses because of course more and more people have rental properties so CRA, it’s easy picking for them. They go, okay show me all your receipts. You don’t have any receipts or you know they’ll decide everything is capital, not expense.
Adam: And chances are, given the climate of the market over the last couple of years, CRA is going to be looking pretty closely at people who are renovating homes, buying and selling a lot of properties and people with a lot of revenue properties, I would imagine.
Matt: Yeah, the lower mainland is
Sean: Oh yeah, flippers beware. CRA really wants to look at what people are doing and it is all about intent, right? So if you are buying it to flip it, it’s regular income, it’s not a capital gain and a lot of people are reporting that as a capital gain if they’re reporting it at all.
Sean: And CRA’s view is if you are flipping, if it is for short term gain, it’s pure income, straight income.
Adam: Got you. How about another Don’t?
Matt: Number 3.
Sean: Another Don’t. Even if you break up with your girlfriend or boyfriend don’t move back into your rental property if you can avoid it
Sean: because it creates a taxable deemed disposition. You have to pay tax on it and, you know, then at least you have a new cost base once you’ve moved back in but often people don’t realize that when they move back in to live in their rental property. Actually that’s a taxable event and it, you know, could be pretty significant if they’ve been out of, if it’s been a rental property for several years, it could be pretty significant tax wise.
Matt: Can you just break that down a little bit… the taxable deemed disposition?
Sean: Yeah, so it’s what CRA calls a deemed change in use so when you are renting something out it’s a rental property right? If you move back into it, it’s treated the same as if you sold it for fair market value and then reacquired it at that price so you have to pay tax on it as if you sold your rental property. And I know there is all sorts of bad information out there about, I’ve heard, you know people saying, well I’ll move back into my rental property for a year and then I won’t have to pay tax on it which isn’t true. As soon as you move back in you’ve caused the taxable event. Now you have to report it. Not everyone does but correctly it is a taxable event
Sean: so avoid it if you can.
Matt: Wow. Okay number 4?
Sean: Number 4 is kind of the reverse. So how many people get into the real estate market is they keep a place where they were living in and they rent it out and buy a new place. So if you do that, it is very important that you, you know, don’t do that without reporting it to CRA basically and it is to your advantage to report it because you get, then, when you move out of it, you get a higher cost base so if ,you know, you buy something for $500,000 and when you move out of it it’s worth $750,000 your new cost based on the rental property is now $750,000 so you want to report that to CRA okay? It helps now and if you don’t with any of these deemed positions there’s now up to a $8000.00 fine for just not reporting the disposition even if there is no tax associated with the event. It’s up to an $8000.00 fine.
Matt: They want that reported.
Sean: That’s right and we can thank basically Vancouver. The rest of the country gets to thank Vancouver for that.
Sean: Because we try to catch people, who you know maybe aren’t Canadian residents or who were for a very brief time who owned a property here and claimed it as their principle residence and sold it so they are just trying to get more reporting on that There really hasn’t been good reporting
Sean: on your principle residence and everyone just assumes that, well, if I live there I don’t have to report anything. Starting in 2016 you do.
Adam: Right. Okay.
Matt: Okay. Number 5 Don’t.
Sean: Don’t don’t take money out of your rental property to buy a bigger principle residence which I see a lot of people doing so they look for ,you know ,hey where can I get equity? And they say, Oh, I got equity in my rental property,
Matt: Totally makes sense, right?
Sean: let’s pull it out and let’s use it for my principle residence. You can do it the only problem with doing it is then you don’t get interest deductibility on that amount that you’ve taken out okay and if you comingle it gets much more difficult to track so don’t do it if you can avoid it. If you do do it, make sure that you track it separately, again using an accountant.
Adam: So the logic being, that a lot of people want, think it’s a good idea to have more down on their primary residence right?
Matt: Or maybe they require more?
Adam: Or require. Yeah.
Sean: Yeah. If you have to do it, you have to do it but keep track of it separately because that chunk, the interest related to that amount you took out, the interest is no longer deductible against your rental property.
Adam: Okay. Number 6?
Matt: You got one more for us, right?
Adam: One more. I Do.Don’t.
Sean: Well, you know there is a late edition to get us up to 6. So this question I get a lot. Don’t assume that you need a corporation if you are going to do rental properties. There’s no tax advantage at all to owning a rental property in a corporation. Many people think there is and then they say, well I went and incorporated and I’m going to buy a rental property in there. There really is no advantage, tax wise to doing it and if you’ve ever tried to purchase a rental property in a corporation it’s much more difficult, more difficult to get financing, it’s just more difficult to do
Sean: and there is no tax advantage so why would you do it? But a lot of people for some reason feel like they should. I suppose there are some legal liability reasons but usually that’s not that.
Matt: Fairly negligible.
Sean: Yeah, yeah so…
Adam: So are you actually taxed at the same rate then when you sell a property out of a corporation?
Sean: It’s higher.
Adam: It’s higher?
Sean: Yeah, because you’ve got, with a corporation, you always have a level of corporate tax but then you have to get that money out of the corporation eventually and so there is another layer of personal tax so it’s actually tax disadvantage to own a rental property in a corporation and they’ve designed it that way because they don’t want passive assets in a corp because they want you paying tax on it at your personal tax rate.
Adam: I might be jumping to the Do’s here but why why
Matt: I was going to say there’s a nice Segway.
Adam: Why do so many people buy properties in a holding company?
Matt: Or when does it make sense?
Adam: Or when does it make sense?
Sean: When does it make sense? It makes sense simply when you can earn active business income in a corporation which is taxed very favourably in Canada, you know, between 11 and 14% so like, with a personal real estate corporation, as an example, or an accounting firm, as another example.
Matt: Sure or I see, you know, doctors, dentists….
Sean: Doctors, dentists, of course, yeah because you’ve paid tax at only 11 or 13% depending on your province and meaning you have, you know, 89 85 to 89 cent dollars with which to purchase property so if you were to take it out and do it personally you’re going to lose, you know, the other half so you know it’s about 50% tax is what you would end up paying so you have that much less to invest so that’s why investing if you can earn active business income then it makes sense to buy a property within the corporate group despite the other problems that arise when you try to buy something in a corp. That’s when it makes sense.
Adam: Fair enough.
Matt: Okay, so that’s the number 1 Do.
Sean: It is. Yes.
Matt and Adam: Alright. Number 2. Let’s move to 2.
Sean: For those of you at home keeping score. That’s 6 to 1.
Adam: 6 to 1.
Sean: Alright. So one simple one and it’s very obvious but you know people often ask me well I want to get invested in real estate how do I do that? So one of the ways to do it, especially in Vancouver is to use the equity in your principle residence as a down payment on investing in real estate
Sean: and there is nothing wrong with that. That’s a way to do it. You know you’re adding to your own personal mortgage but you’re then potentially having an income property that’s building equity right? It’s a Do to get into real estate or like I said earlier if you, you know, own your principle residence, you buy something else and then rent out your previous principle residence nothing wrong with doing that, you just have to report it
Sean: or get the $8000.00 fine so…..
Adam: So to recap on that one….
Matt: My understanding of your point there, Sean, is use the equity in your home
Matt: if you want to get into the…that’s a very valuable….
Adam: So a home equity line of credit or potentially refinancing your home.
Sean: Exactly. Exactly.
Sean: Because, well, especially if you look at the cost of properties here in Vancouver. You know you need $150,000.00 down payment. Most people don’t have that sitting around.
Matt: Yeah and we’ve talked about this before, with the increases over the last couple of years a lot of people have equity in their home that they could be using and you know it sounds like it is a good idea.
Sean: It is a way to get into it for sure.
Adam: Okay. So Number 3.
Sean: Number 3. Okay. So this is a simple one. We’re going to get technical here a bit. We’re going to use some tax terms here for a bit.
Matt: We’re ready for it.
Sean: Claim capital cost allowance on your rental properties. CCA, commonly known as depreciation, okay. I see a lot of times we’ll take over for someone who has been doing their own tax return or other accountants and they are not claiming CCA. And what CCA allows you to do is basically defer tax on your rental income for a very long time, okay? Basically until you sell the property, okay and maybe you will keep it for twenty years or thirty years and sell it eventually but you know you have been able to defer tax for that whole time. Now you can’t use it to create a rental loss but most property will have taxable income even if it doesn’t necessarily cash flow because you are paying back your mortgage and mortgage principle repayments not deductible so almost always it will have taxable income and you can use depreciation to bring that number down to zero. So that’s why we like properties as accountants because you don’t pay tax on the income for a long time and you don’t pay tax on the gain in the increase in property until you sell it.
Adam: Right. That’s a great one.
Matt: Alright on to Number 5.
Sean: Okay. If you refinance, this is the opposite of the Don’t, so If you do refinance a rental property, so if you are trying to do multiple rental properties and lots of people are, use that money to put into other properties, not your own house again because you’ve messed up the interest deductibility if you use it in your own principle residence. So, you know, take money out of your current rental to use as a down payment then to buy your next rental.
Matt: And the reason for that again?
Sean: Because otherwise you lose the interest deductibility. So you’ll have interest but it won’t be deductible and so you’re going to be paying tax on the payment on the interest on the income.
Matt: This seems like something that a lot of people want to do, right? Is pull that equity out of your rental because you have rent coming in and then you live mortgage free. But you got to be careful.
Matt: Don’t so it.
Sean: Oh, well, this is saying, put it into other rental properties so use
Matt: That’s what I’m saying, as opposed to saying, hey, I want to be rental free in my principle residence so I’m going to pull equity out of there. That’s a Don’t.
Sean: Yeah. I mean you lose the interest deductibility which is one of the nice things about rental property because, of course, the interest on your principle residence is never deductible.
Matt: Right. Okay and last but not least.
Sean: Wait. No. We’ve got two more.
Adam: No. Second last Matt. Matt, you’re not keeping score.
Matt: Oh, you’ve got so many good tips here Sean. My apologies.
Sean: No problem. No problem. We’ll keep going. Two more. Okay, so pay off your principle residence mortgage before your rental property mortgage. Now it may sound kind of like opposite to what I was saying before but let’s say you came into you know, $50,000.00. It makes more sense to pay off your principle residence than to pay off your rental properties okay, because of course you get the interest deductibility on your rental property so you want to pay that off as slowly as possible. You want to pay off your principle residence as quickly as possible.
Matt: Right. Just not with the equity from your rental properties.
Sean: Yeah, well and typically with people, I mean, you know, if you have a mortgage am of about twenty years on your principal residence, you know, do that and maybe, you know, when it comes up you do extra chunks or whatever but it’ll take care of itself and then the rentals well, I mean, the rentals, you don’t care as much because presumably at some point the plan is to exit and to sell. So you pay off the mortgage at that point.
Adam and Matt: Right. Right. Okay and the last one.
Sean: Well keep in mind I’m an accountant. So you know I couldn’t suggest more strongly to be organized. And to keep a separate bank account and a separate credit card for each property that you have so that you do track all of your expenses properly. I see so many people who just lose receipts. There are so many expenses with a rental property.
Matt: Have you seen the shoebox under the table here?
Sean: Exactly. Exactly. Well and anyone who has a rental property knows there’s always little expenses that you forget about. You lose the receipts. If you have a separate bank account that captures all the income and that captures all the expenses you can just give those bank statements to your accountant at the end of the year and go, look here’s all my income and expenses and then you know you’ve captured everything. It also helps, you know, if you ever get audited with CRA, if you’ve comingled it with your own personal bank account which is what I see all the time you got, you know, it’s an uphill battle to get through the audit because they say well everything is mixed together how do I know if that is your property tax or the rental property tax.
Adam: So are you suggesting separate credit cards for each property, each revenue property
Adam: or just for all your rentals?
Sean: Ideally. Yes, if, yes, a separate one for each but if you have multiple rentals and you just want to do one separate credit card, as long as you keep good track of to which property it relates that would be good enough but definitely a separate bank account for each property.
Adam: Now, do you have any programs you could suggest or an app perhaps that people might for managing their…. Is there anything you can recommend?
Sean: Well, you know most people use Excel which is fine. I mean, because rental properties,you know it’s usually pretty easy, right? It’s like one rent cheque per month then, you know, some mortgage and some property taxes that come out so it’s not that complicated accounting. If people really like accounting there’s Quick Books. Quick Books does properties really well.
Matt: Sure. I was going to say that’s what our accountant recommended to us.
Adam: There’s a Quick Book app that’s pretty good as well.
Sean: Yeah. Yeah. Those work. They’re sometimes more complicated. Most people know how to use Excel so, you know, they can just keep using it but, yeah, Quick Books works really well. And Quick Books is nice because it does give you dual entry bookkeeping. You know you’ve sort of kept track of everything so….
Adam: Okay. One last question here before we get to Sean’s contact but there’s a lot of rumblings that cap gains may be increasing. Are you hearing anything on the ground?
Sean: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a strong suspicion. Don’t forget not fifteen years ago capital gains were taxed at 75% inclusion rate. That doesn’t mean that it was 75% tax but 75% of the gain was included but only in the last few years that it went down to 50% in the last probably fifteen years so it is possible that and more likely that they will increase the inclusion rate from 50% up to 75% which does have, you know, impacts things pretty strongly especially if the higher end, you know, of tax rate point…
Adam: Sure. Good.
Matt: And I did mention that Adam and I use another accountant and that’s of course our brother, Chris so if we weren’t using Chris we’d definitely use you Sean
Matt: and obviously people are going to want to know how to get in touch with you.
Sean: Right. Well you can go to the website mgroup.ca or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is March so I’m kind of working 24 hours a day so anytime you e-mail me I should be able to get back to you pretty quickly.
Matt: Hey, well thanks so much for your time, Sean. Really appreciate it. That was great advice.
Sean: Okay. Thanks guys.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks. Take care.
Matt: So there you have it folks, our discussion with Sean Marek, tax accountant with the M Group.
Adam: Yup. And Matt usually my eyes glaze over when somebody starts talking about tax but in this case, riveting stuff.
Matt: Compelling guy, Sean Marek. Compelling Guy.
Adam: Very compelling guy.
Matt: 6 Do’s, 6 Don’ts.
Matt: Like I said…there is a nice symmetry there yeah but one thing I wanted to say is of course you’ll want to listen to that probably more than once.
Adam: I agree. I agree and I think that’s the thing is we get so many questions about what to consider when buying a revenue property from a tax perspective I think he lays it out very clearly. Some things you should do, some things you shouldn’t do but at the core of it, I think he’s proven that you’ve got to get in touch with an accountant and a good accountant that knows investing.
Matt: That’s what I was going to say. We’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. If Sean has proven anything you should be talking to someone like Sean if you have investment properties.
Adam: Right. No question. For sure. So Matt, a couple of items before we cut for the day. One is we’re hiring new realtors so if you are looking to grow your business, get in touch. You can contact Matt or myself.
Matt: That’s right.
Adam: And also we really appreciate it. We’re at I think 98 ratings on iTunes Canada. If you want to be the 100th review there’s a huge prize. We’re not sure what it is yet and we’re not sure how we’re going to get in touch with you but
Matt: Well no. If you’re that person, get in touch with us and
Adam: and we’ve got something very special lined up for you.
Matt: It’s very special.
Adam: It’s very special. We haven’t figured out what it is yet but it’s special.
Matt: Brady D is on it.
Adam: Brady D is on it. For sure.
Brayden: I’ll look into it.
Adam: He’s looking into it. Okay.
Matt: And I’m swimming in balloons here. It’s our 50th episode so thanks for all your support. Check us out at the vancouverrealestatepodcast.com
Adam: And Matt, how can people reach you?
Matt: If not at the website, 778-847-2854 or email@example.com Adam
Adam: Or you can try me at 778-866-4574 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt: And if you want to touch base with Brayden. Brayden?
Adam: Okay. Well, hey, have a great week. And to yeah 50 more.
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