13 June 2013

Your presence on the web: what's best for your needs?

While Facebook and Twitter are receiving excellent visibility in the media — as they very well should — there are other options somewhat less ephemeral but nevertheless worth considering in getting your message across.

Personal websites


Options that are available at Google Sites, LinkedIn, VisualCV and the like are somewhat static, but they can help focus your message to specific audiences. I particularly like Google Sites, as you can create multiple pages and filing cabinets in order to individualize your presentation.

Blogs

Both Blogger and Wordpress have impressive options relating to widgets and templates, as well as the ability to incorporate specialized scripts. I particularly like MathJax, which I have put into Blogger in order to properly construct mathematical expressions for some of my articles. You can also arrange to publicize your new posts to Facebook and Twitter as well, in order to spread the word.

I have opted to split my postings into two blogs — Blogger for particularly professional statements, and Wordpress for personal viewpoints and recollections. That is a personal choice, but it seems to fit into the tools that are available for each, and it gives me a chance to experiment with what can be done. Besides, it's fun!


Wikis

I have been doing some editing on Wikipedia, and I am finding that wikis can be very powerful tools, especially in an organizational context:

  • as any article can be edited by anyone,  a topic can be quickly created and refined where there is a critical mass of knowledge that can be drawn upon (ie, the wisdom of crowds)
  • an article can be promptly updated when updated information becomes available
  • it can provide a reasonable replacement for the organization manuals that can otherwise be subject to the obsolescence of the printed word in a fast-changing environment
  • all previous versions of the article are still available to be consulted, in order to review for reasonableness and to provide document control (which can be critical for complying with documentation requirements such as those found in ISO 9001)
  • footnotes and bibliographies can be easily constructed, together with hyperlinks to related articles and to reliable external sources
  • when appropriate policies are instituted relating to the enforcement of reliability and the observance of intellectual property rights, proper administration and supervision of the wiki will result in a reliable body of information that members of the organization will be willing to rely on
MediaWiki, the platform on which Wikipedia is based,  is free to download and to implement. Just make sure you check all the other notes relating to installation requirements and compatibility. There are other wiki platforms as well, so see which one would work best for you.

I still can't believe this

The story that came out several days ago about top Liberal staffers in the Ontario provincial government — including those in the Premier's office — caught deleting e-mails from their systems is wrong on multiple levels:

  • it runs contrary to the desire to keep all such communications as part of the historical record
  • retention is mandated under the province's Archives and Recordkeeping Act, 2006
  • even if the Act's penalties are weak, observance is the honourable thing to do
  • there are relatively cheap means that could have been implemented to ensure that deletion could not have taken place (I particularly recommend the solution provided by Mailstore, but there are others)
There have been many spectacular stories in recent years about how this province's government has been mismanaged, but this story serves as a microcosm for the entire affair.

The real reason for Canada's lagging productivity?

Deloitte has been tracking the issue of the low productivity of Canadian businesses relative to those in the US for some time now, and this year's report proved to be a genuine eye-opener. On the other hand, the results were not really that surprising to those who know: as The Globe and Mail summarized it, Canadian companies are delusional:

  • 36% of them are chronically underinvesting and not aware of it, while 14% know they are and are comfortable with that choice
  • there is too much inclination to view matters internally, without benchmarking to what is happening externally
  • firm size accounts for only 2% of the Canada-US productivity gap, and sector composition only 6% — the rest is happening within the sector itself
  • all of this is happening despite the huge incentives Canadian tax legislation has in place to encourage capital spending and R&D activity, as well as the relatively cheap cost for improving IT and communications infrastructures
 This is no surprise to those who have had to deal with management on both sides of the border. Perhaps embarrassment is the way to go, to really start things moving...

12 June 2013

A reminder: what you need to do to secure your ITCs

The Canada Revenue Agency is tightening their audit routines for determining how much can be allowed for input tax credit claims. Here is a refresher about the rules you must follow when you are registered to collect GST/HST.

What has to appear on invoices


The regulations presume that the basic information must appear on invoices that are supplied for a transaction, and must be captured on the registrant's books and records (essentially your accounting system). The information that must be supplied depends on the value of the invoice:


Information required Invoice less than CAD 30 Invoice = CAD 30.00 - 149.99 Invoice = CAD 150 or more
Your business or trading name, or your intermediary's name (registrant with whom you have an agreement to help you supply your goods or services) Y Y Y
Invoice date Y Y Y
Total amount paid or payable Y Y Y
An indication of the total amount of GST/HST charged or that the amount paid or payable for each taxable supply (other than zero-rated supplies) includes the GST/HST at the applicable rate N Y Y
When you supply items taxable at the GST rate and the HST rate, an indication of which items are taxed at the GST rate and which are taxed at the HST rate N Y Y
Your business number or your intermediary's business number (registrant with whom you have an agreement to help you supply your goods or services) N Y Y
The buyer's name or trading name or the name of their authorized agent or representative N N Y
A brief description of the goods or services N N Y
Terms of payment N N Y

Most accounting systems will capture the above information on invoices that they generate.

Circumstances where no invoice is supplied 


Certain exceptions are allowed with respect to the invoice requirement in the case of:

  • unvouchered cash payments, 
  • computerized books and records, 
  • contractual arrangements (such as leases), 
  • reimbursement of meal and entertainment expenses, 
  • meal and entertainment expenses allowances, 
  • reimbursement of expenses (other than meal and entertainment expenses), 
  • allowances (other than for meal and entertainment expenses), and 
  • taxi or limousine fares 
 There are some minor variations of the requirements for each of these categories, but the following apply to all:

  • name or trading name of the supplier (or employer with respect to reimbursements and allowances)
  • business number of the above
  • date or reporting period for the transaction
  • amount paid, as well as the amount of GST/HST
  • the type of supply
 This area is where many businesses may get tripped up:
  • are business numbers of suppliers being recorded on the books and records?
  • are they being otherwise supplied on the execution of contractual arrangements?
  • are all business numbers supplied being verified through the CRA GST/HST registry (and the QST registry, if you are registered for Quebec Sales Tax)?
  • would it be a good idea for the employer to print its business number on expense reimbursement forms?
  • do reimbursement claims distinguish between the different provinces with respect to the travel that has occurred (which may impact on any recapture of ITCs)?
  • does the same go for any allowances that are paid?
  • are the requirements relating to the use of corporate credit cards being properly observed?
The above is just a shortlist of the questions that need to be examined. The CRA website has many other topics that should be taken into account as well.