Any person (individual, partnership, corporation, trust, etc.) carrying on a business must keep books of accounts and records which provide the ability to calculate taxes payable. These books and records must be supported by “source documents” which substantiate the amounts in the books of account. Source documents include (but are not limited to) invoices for purchases and sales, deposit slips, cheques, and contracts. These books and records are used to prepare financial statements of the business, which must be prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Recent changes in accounting standards means that now, financial statements must be prepared according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE).
For purposes of income tax, many books of accounts, records, and source documents have to be retained for a minimum of six years after the end of the last tax year to which they relate. In the case of records regarding capital purchases, the last tax year to which they relate would be much later than the acquisition date. It would be the tax year in which a disposal of the capital property occurred, because the purchase records would be required to calculate the gain or loss on disposal. Thus, records regarding capital property should normally be kept until six years after the end of the tax year in which the capital property was sold.
Some books and records of the business of a person (other than a corporation) must be retained until six years after the tax year in which the business ceased. These books and records include, according to Regulation 5800:
– the general ledger or other book of final entry containing the summaries of the year-to-year transactions of the business,
– any special contracts or agreements necessary to an understanding of the entries in the general ledger or other book of final entry referred to the point above
Some corporate records must be kept until two years after the day the corporation is dissolved. These records include:
– minutes of the meetings of directors of a corporation,
– minutes of meetings of the shareholders of a corporation,
– any record of the corporation containing details with respect to the ownership of the shares of the capital stock of the corporation and any transfers thereof,
– the general ledger or other book of final entry containing the summaries of the year-to-year transactions of the corporation, and
– any special contracts or agreements necessary to an understanding of the entries in the general ledger or other book of final entry referred to the last point
It can be very beneficial to seek the help of an accountant to set up your record-keeping when you first start your small business. After that, even if you are able to do your own bookkeeping and tax returns, having them reviewed by your accountant or tax advisory can often save you money and avoid problems.