Know your tax situation and invest wisely

Know your tax situation and invest wisely

Community accounting guru Clarence Jones advises on financial security beyond COVID-19

Rosie Awori (LJI) & Egbert Gaye

“It does not matter what your income status is: whether you’re an employer, self-employed, working multiple jobs, student working full or part-time or a retiree, you have a responsibility to educate yourself when it comes to your personal income, taxes as well as available government benefits.”

With more than 30 years under his belt as an accountant specializing in taxation, Clarence Jones has seen more than his share of tax drama with clients owing exorbitant amounts of money to the government.
And much of it he says “ is simply because people are unaware of their situation and their obligations when it comes to taxes.”
As such, these days he finds himself spending a lot of time rectifying bad decisions rather than helping clients get control of their taxation and build businesses.
That’s why he continues to advocate strongly that people, both workers and entrepreneurs, educate themselves when it comes to taxes.

“Proper management of your tax situation and your investment will help to maximize personal income and financial growth, says Jones who opened CJAS Accounting Services in 2003 after securing a degree from Concordia University in the 1990s and honing his skills at a few well-respected accounting firms around Montreal.
But for all his decades in business, nothing compares to the challenges he faced during past two years helping his clients navigate the financial and social madness heaped on society by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He says at the cusp of the crisis, he himself has had to learn quickly and pivot.
“In our case, a significant part of our business had to be done online, by e-mail and e-transfer,” he says. “But inspite of a quick digital transformation, we still experienced a drop in business.”

Adding that the decline wasn’t because of a drop in his clientele but mostly because of the impact of the curfew, which was instated by the Quebec government between January 9 and May 28.
“It really affected our business because we couldn’t find the time (and space with the restrictions) to accommodate all our clients,” he remembered.
All of which was made more difficult by the additional burden of trying to assist clients navigate the multitude of new programs that were being rolled out by the government as it tried to stabilize the Covid-19 ravaged economy.
It unleashed a tidal wave of individuals attempting sign up for the CERB and entrepreneurs trying to access various support initiatives to keep their business afloat.
The pressure, he says was made even more intense due to the heightened uncertainty among citizens as well as government. As such he was continuously navigating government websites for updates on programs.
Many days he felt there were not enough hours in the day. It impacted his business.
But he credits the efforts of his staff, a diverse group of tax and administrative professionals, some of whom are recent addition to the staff, in helping to shore up CJAS and provide much needed service to clients during that difficult period.
As usual, his long-serving assistant Victoria Durant quickly seized the mantle of support when together with Amelia Navigaza, they took charge of the personal income taxes division of the business and freed up Jones to handle the corporate account.
And at the same time benefitting from the organizational skills of Jenny Zambku and Lilliana Riccio for organizing files and following up with clients.
Hoping for a light at the end of the dark tunnel that is the COVID-19 crisis, he says financial stability should uppermost on people’s mind.

“To make that happen, you have to be prepared for taxes whether it’s personal or business,” he told the CONTACT in a recent telephone interview. “For individuals, it’s important to know your tax bracket especially if you’re working multiple jobs.”

He talks about clients who are ready to give up a job because they’re paying too much taxes.
“My advice always is: never to give up income because of taxes, be prepared and stop spending what you don’t see.”
Also he strongly advises that people find the right investment vehicle to take them to their savings objectives.

“It’s important that our youth especially, are reminded of the need to save more,” he says. “The most favored options in my estimation are the Canada Tax Free Saving Account and RRSPs both of which help to build savings and reduce taxable income. I say put money in both because the immediate gains far outweighs whatever you’ve to pay at the end .”

As well he says, taxes should foremost on the minds of business owners.
“Educate yourself. Know the type of business that you’re in and know what government’s benefits are available,” he recommends.

“But most important, know your deductibles.”

He says too many entrepreneurs who think that the GST and QST that they collect belong to them.

“Those payments are not yours, they belong to the government,” he warns, saying that the sooner entrepreneurs recognizes that, the better prepared they are to handle them.
He has seen too many instances where businesses are paying too much GST to the government because they didn’t calculate their deductions and expenses properly.
Now after almost two years of muddling through the economic and social crisis brought on by Covid-19, he’s hoping that people equip themselves with as much information as possible as they look down the road towards the eventual end of pandemic.