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Make life easy on yourself
From The Desk Of Drumlin S Boulder

I ran into Albert Heijn in front of our local green grocer last Saturday morning. Albert's an artist. And not at all a struggling one because he paints and produces art people buy. Nothing like giving the customer what they want. He's financially very successful because he not only sells various sized wall prints, he repurposes his images and scales reproductions for cards and mugs and key rings, frankly, anything he can. His cards and mugs are big sellers, so tubes of prints, and boxes of cards and mugs and other stuff move via his mind and studio into production, and they're sold by his sales force to distributors all over the world. They buy and move his stuff because it is all about how he presents his cats.

Anyone seeing one of Albert Heijn's cats, and who has also owned a cat, cannot help but immediately recognize their own cat's particular take on the classic cat poses presented by Heijn, if not his ever present trade mark big head.

Sometimes even on dremels. Several years ago Albert placed a big headed cat on one of our Christmas dremels. It was especially designed and produced for an important Portable Hole annuity customer, you know, one of those that reliably comes back time after time after year. Which is how we first became friends and chatted about business all the while designing the dremel cat. We shared problems and learned to work together and I liked how he did and we did things.

Like Albert thinking outside the easel. Thinking larger canvas, Albert scaled up and placed his art on a billboard promoting a cell phone company. You may have seen it. His was a large white canvas. On the left side was a large aquamarine cat, front paws tucked underneath it so only his knees showed, laying face forward on a black line drawing, puffed up couch, against a wall that also had a line drawing window in it, but it had a dark blue evening sky coloured window pane with city skyline and a full risen moon. The big cat, big headed and all, eyes closed, ignored an obviously vibrating visibly branded cell phone nestled in his side. "Purrs like a cat. Perfect for le chat" was written underneath the line drawn couch somewhere at the level of the floor

A large version of the perfect phone jumped out of the large right side of the billboard, and showed off its features, which included in the upper half a large colour screen showing another big headed aquamarine cat with large open yellow eyes. The bottom showed the keyboard and nerve centre of this little beauty.

Heijn and I talked about useless innovation , me because Portable Holes innovates with every customer it can, sometimes simply to learn, but tries to stay away from useless, while Heijn sees useless innovation not as failures or misjudged market need\want but as tendrils or shoots in search of acceptance. The phone as a camera, mobile video, music, email, etc device had to at least see if web browsing was feasible

He's just smarter than me because thinking far outside the easel, Albert saw the business in his art, so he's had to organize key people to operate the gallery reproduction operations, and help manage the business, shipping to area distributors around the world, and via a sales force on the road to area stores. He also takes web based orders directly from customers all over the world, taking payment via Paypal from safe countries, and money orders from the rest, and ships to them via Speddex. So he has lots of employees who all care a lot about pay and working conditions and if they're like other employees, they all want some assistance getting into a car...not physically of course, but financially.

So big headed cats on mugs and cards and canvas, shipped all over the world and sometimes on Christmas dremels, on trains and planes and automobiles, were what I saw flashing through my mind with billboards and useless mobile phone technology when Albert asked me whether we owned or leased our employee passenger vehicles .

"We don't lease or buy cars for anyone", I began as a host of suppressed aggravation came flooding into my Saturday morning and threatened to heat me more than the Tim's coffee I was holding.

Now I of course don't keep the books, Carrie Balance does that quite well, but she has to make sure we toe the line on company cars. "Did you know that for passenger cars to report 100% business use the vehicle would need to be left at the office each day and only ever, well substantially all the time, used for business purposes? When personal and tax benefits enter the picture, life gets complicated"

For companies that cannot avoid making passenger cars available for personal use, this taxable benefit includes standby charges for simply standing around not being driven but available for personal use. The calculation for it is based on either 2/3 of the lease cost if you lease or 2% per month of the cost of the vehicle (so 24% per year) and that does NOT go down as the vehicle depreciates. For just standing around being available.

Well Ok, it's not always that nasty, only really nasty when personal use, which includes driving home and back from work and weekends and stuff is more than 50% of the total use of the car. It becomes relatively less nasty as business use rises to 50 and 90 and above percent business use, and standby charges reduce and begin to disappear. Still, beyond the full or partial or maximum availability hit, there's the operating costs....the gas and ail and repairs and maintenance and insurance other costs paid by the company to operate that car in the business. These have to be apportioned between business and personal use....and benefit amounts can be repaid....grumble, from the get go, passenger vehicles are a pain to administer owned or leased .

With passenger cars, unless it makes sense to do otherwise, our solution was to simply give employees that need it a car allowance and sign the conditions of employment report. Let them decide to lease/buy /maintain/write off the cars themselves which is, believe me, a benefit to them. Plus if they leave or you have to let them go you won't be stuck with a car.

Make sure your corporate insurance policy covers employee used cars while engaged in business activities. That's prudent and much less of a headache to administer Note this means you're also not covering personal use of their auto. Another good reason for a simpler car allowance.

Pay $0.54 per kilometer up to 5,000km and $0.48/km thereafter, and the employee has to keep a detailed journal of all business days, mileage, etc, and its up to them what they drive. Pay it monthly and have the employee sign a form that indicated # of business use and the km being claimed. Once a year, the employer signs a conditions of employment report and in the area dealing with passenger cars is a yes the employee needs a car and yes or no an allowance was paid. In most cases, assuming these are arms length employees, the KM claim forms should be sufficient along with a general sense of reasonableness given the situation and circumstance at hand. Should it not fit into the reasonable amounts set out by CRA, the ENTIRE amount could well become taxable....but to them

In all tax cases employees, not you, have to keep the support documentation for CCA, operating costs , trip and activity logs beginning and ending odometer reading from each trip etc for when the taxman comes calling.

For you, the business owner, life is far easier with KM allowance slips and a write off and an HST input tax credit

So that's basically what I told Albert. Make life easy on yourself

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