Off the Books with Randy Urman: Adapting to Minimum Wage Increases

How long have you been with Sloan Group?

I started with Sloan in Oct 2007, so I recently celebrated my tenth anniversary with the firm.  My job is a big part of my life, and I look forward to coming in every day.  I’m lucky to be able to say that.

What is your area of focus?

I’m a general practitioner, so I don’t have one specific area of focus.  I provide tax and accounting services to a very diverse group of clientele ranging from the construction industry to the food industry, and the consulting industry to professionals – and many others.  I provide tax planning and tax minimization strategies to individuals, estates and trusts, and owner managed or privately held corporations.  My approach is to learn as much as I can about my clients’ businesses and unique circumstances to ensure I provide them with effective tax and business planning so that I am adding value to them and their businesses.

The Ontario Minimum wage will jump to $15 an hour by January 1, 2019.  How will this affect small businesses?

The minimum wage in Ontario is going up from $11.60 in 2017 to $14 in January 2018 and then to $15 in January 2019.  It’s quite a substantial increase, which could become a major challenge for businesses that are directly affected.  Those affected by this increase will be forced to make changes in some ways or be willing to accept lower profits.

Wage increases may affect the profitability of a small business, the quality of a product or service their customers currently enjoy if they reduce the number of employee hours worked or eliminate jobs. Employment terms could also potentially change.  And of course, the worst-case scenario is that some businesses will be forced to close or go bankrupt as a result of these changes.

The implementation timeline is fairly aggressive.  How can a small business take steps now to be ready for the increases?

The government did not give much time for businesses to prepare for these increases.  Some steps a business can take are to closely evaluate their current operations, and revenues and expenses, and find areas which improvements can be made.  Actively seek out ways to either increase revenues, decrease expenses, or both.

What incentives are included in the Labour Reform Package to help small businesses?

To my knowledge, not that many.  Corporate tax rates are going down, which may ease some of the burden, but I would not expect that to have too much of an impact in a business that has a lot of exposure to these increases.  There are other incentives such as $1,000 for hiring a new employee between the ages of 15 and 29 and then a further $1,000 for each worker retained for at least six months by a small business.  Speak to your accountant and get advice on how whether you qualify for these incentives and how you can claim them.

What are ways that small businesses can offset the wage increase?

Some of the ways these additional costs can be offset are to:

  • Pass on the cost to customers by increasing prices
  • Find ways to make your business more automated and potentially reduce the number of labour hours you require
  • Source out cheaper suppliers
  • Modify the ingredients or inputs that are going into the products or services that your business offers
  • Reduce employee hours or eliminate jobs
  • Changing the benefits offered to employees as well as the employment terms

The list goes on and on.

What advice would you give to small businesses to prepare for these sweeping changes?

Review your financial statements with your accountant.  Prepare a budget for your businesses and ask your accountant for advice on ways the business can be improved.  In my opinion, all business should adopt these practices on a regular basis regardless of whether or not wages are increasing.

Also, employees may have ideas on how the business can be improved.  After all, it is often said that your employees are your most valuable asset; ask them to share their ideas with you.

And now a few personal questions.  What made you decide to become an accounting and tax professional?

I was drawn to the thought of helping people resolve problems.  I have always been a numbers person and thought the accounting profession would offer an opportunity to utilize those skills while allowing me to interact with people every day, which I enjoy.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests outside of the office that you’d like to share?

I enjoy playing poker, traveling and spending time with family and friends.  I have two young sons and a wife that I love spending time with. I love to read (mainly business books and mystery/suspense novels).  I can go through a book a week even at my busiest time of the year – tax season!

Randy Urman is a manager at Sloan Group.You can reach Randy by email or call 416-665-7735, ext. 301.

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