I started writing this blog in September, 2009. At that time, there was very little useful information about restaurant tax audits in Canada (or anywhere). In the 42 articles that I have written so far, I have tried to fill this gap with practical information geared towards restaurateurs. Based on the comments I’ve received from a number of readers, I think I have succeeded. There still isn’t much useful information about restaurant tax audits, other than what you will find in this blog. That’s a shame, but it keeps me motivated to continue helping as many restaurateurs as I can.
Here’s a bold statement: tax auditors don’t know your business.
It’s true! You know it, I know it, even the tax auditors know it!
As a result, you may think you have an advantage over the tax auditors. Unfortunately, you don’t. What tax auditors lack in knowledge they make up for by making assumptions about your restaurant. Often, these assumptions are nothing more than the tax authority’s decisions to use certain “standards”. For example, the “industry average” shrinkage allowance for draft beer (or liquor, or wine). Here’s a surprise: there isn’t one! In almost every case, the tax auditor makes assumptions that are not favourable to your tax position, leading to large tax reassessments.
We all know that some amount of alcohol will be pilfered. Don’t you love that word? Pilfered. Sounds like a mere pittance. It is anything but. As a rule of thumb, the cost of the theft will be about three times the cost of the alcohol that is, ah, pilfered.
If you’ve been following recent posts on my sister blog, Canadian Restaurateur, you may have noticed a theme. Theft. All restaurateurs know that theft is a significant issue that requires our constant vigilance. The cost of the stolen product is bad enough, but if you also have to pay tax (plus penalties and interest) on the retail value of the stolen product, it becomes a huge issue. Everyone knows it isn’t right that a restaurateur should have to pay tax “as if” the stolen alcohol had been sold. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it works in most tax jurisdictions.
You may not be aware, but there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Canada. There’s even a CRA Guide. I have to admit, I’ve rarely had occasion to look at it, until recently. Today’s post covers several key taxpayer rights that are likely to be trampled upon during an audit. This is especially true for audits of restaurants and bars.
During a typical audit, the tax auditor interviews the taxpayer about the business operations and various factors that influence sales, such as portion standards, selling prices, theft, spillage, own-use and over-pouring. If the auditor exercises sound judgment, the taxpayer’s assertions will be considered prima facie evidence that the assumptions are reasonable in the circumstances. These assumptions form the basis for most audit assessments of restaurants and bars. What if they’re just plain wrong?
Huh? Do you mean that if I never over-pour drinks, my establishment can still be accused of under-reporting my sales (and taxes) during an audit? That can’t be right! Can it? Unfortunately, it IS true for almost every restaurant and bar in Canada! Today’s post explains how this happens and what you can do about it.
Most restaurants and bars use shot glasses or portion control pourers to accurately measure the amount of liquor that goes into cocktails, mixed drinks and shots. Meticulously training bartenders and monitoring pouring, you’re fairly confident that your pouring is fairly accurate, if not “perfect”. Even if it is, your establishment will be over-pouring all of your liquor drinks by at least 4%!
So far, I’ve discussed the POS system and how to maintain it for accurate reporting, how to document your sales mix for all audit periods, and the importance of maintaining an accurate history of your menu prices. Taken together, these bookkeeping tasks are crucial in helping the restaurateur determine, and properly support, accurate weighted average prices. This is a crucial component of the mark-up calculation performed during a typical audit.
Now we’ll take a look at the actual cost of the alcoholic beverages purchased for sale.
This post concerns customer comps or promotional drinks served by restaurants and bars. The issue is: how much is too much?
Most restaurants and bars offer promotional drinks to their customers from time to time. Sometimes it is to acknowledge frequent visits, high spending or special occasions. Other times it may be to “compensate” a customer for a service or quality issue. In either case, the customer receives a free (complimentary) drink. All restaurateurs know that this is an effective method of promoting and growing a restaurant business. However, if you don’t keep track of these types of promotions properly, customer comps could be your downfall.