Off the Books

Off the Books with Michael Spigelman

What is your main area of focus with Sloan Partners?
As a Partner at Sloan, my focus is managing a diverse group of private entrepreneurial clients, providing accounting, taxation and business consulting services. These clients run non-public companies so they require a lot of my involvement. They have issues beyond taxes and accounting, so I often act as their trusted financial and business advisor. They count on me to be their confidant on a number of matters.

What type of clients do you typically serve?
My clients run the gamut from wholesale, manufacturing and retail companies, to private investment companies and financial institutions, to construction and real estate businesses. I also deal with estates and trusts, individuals, and professionals. It’s a very diverse group, so there are different challenges every day which I like.

What are some of the most common myths you hear from clients regarding tax filings?
I am always surprised at some things I hear, but some common myths are that if someone doesn’t have the funds to pay HST then they don’t have to file an HST return. I’ve also had clients that believed that they can clear a shareholder debit balance by booking a management fee. When a shareholder takes money out of the business, it may create a debit balance which needs to be cleared. There are ways to attend to this, but not dealing with it could cause significant tax implications. Another myth that I hear is that you don’t have to tell the CRA if you have significant foreign investments and are completing a T1135 form. All not true and likely to get you in hot water with the CRA.

What are some ways that you help clients solve accounting or tax issues?
I am able to take a complicated situation—like a shareholder debt balance, computation of capital dividend accounts, dividend planning, or other tax planning issues – and boil it down to a more simplistic view for the client. I feel almost like a teacher in my role – not in a professor/lecturer kind of way, but as an educator who can explain a complicated issue with simplicity and clarity. That ability comes with experience.

What do you find the most rewarding part of your job?
On the client side, I enjoy finding invaluable solutions to their business and personal problems. As I mentioned before, I take pride in being a respected confidant to my clients beyond just finding ways to save them money and make better financial decisions. I truly care about my clients, and I bring knowledge and experience to provide value and integrity to my work. I was delighted when a client once said was that I was “frigging meticulous.” I take pleasure in working at that professional level.

On the firm level, I enjoy providing a leadership role and bringing the best out of staff by treating them as a valuable part of the team. I also enjoy teaching and training staff in areas other than basic compliance issues, including planning and consulting and being a professional.

One thing I’m very proud of is the fact that I still work with some clients that I began doing audits for back when I was a young student. In some cases, I am working with the third generation of a business’ ownership or their family members’ business.

What are the top things a small business should know tax-wise before filing this year?
Every tax year brings new tax laws. Personal income tax rates are increasing for 2016. And dividends are more expensive in 2016 compared to 2015 when planning to clear refundable dividend tax. There are also changes to foreign reporting. I believe in pre-planning with clients prior to the year end date, and to consider planning opportunities before, not after, the year end date. Also, the recent Federal Budget outlined various proposals changing a number of areas, some of which include, small business taxation, stock options, various personal tax credits, transfers of life Insurance, international tax measures, just to name a few.

What are the biggest tax mistakes businesses or individuals make and how can they be avoided?
I can’t stress enough the importance of filing all filings on time to mitigate interest and penalties, and remain a good corporate citizen with the CRA. I always recommend using qualified bookkeepers to maintain complete and accurate records. Incomplete or insufficient recordkeeping is a recipe for trouble. Be sure to remit HST collections (net of input tax credits) and payroll source deductions as due and do not use them as working capital for the business. These funds are collected in trust on behalf of the government.

Tell us about your career before joining Sloan Partners?
Before joining Sloan Partners in 2002, I was a partner in a top 20 Canadian accounting firm for 13 years. I started at that firm at an early age. It was a terrific learning experience partnering a diverse private entrepreneurial client base and making valuable business relationships.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests you’d like to share?
Aside from spending precious quality time with family, I enjoy ice hockey in the winter and summer. I also enjoy a round of golf when I can during golf season. I love music and cycling. I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University in Israel, raising awareness and funds for such a terrific institution, and also raising funds for many deserving charities.

Michael Spigelman, CPA, CA, BA, is a partner at Sloan Group.  You can reach Michael at or at 416-464-0317.

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