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.
A few months ago, Dining Date Night began offering customers a 30% discount at various restaurants in Toronto. In order to get the discount, a customer books a reservation on a website and pays a $10 fee to Dining Date Night. When the customer visits the restaurant, 30% of the total bill (before taxes) is deducted as a discount. This type of promotion is relatively good for both the consumer and the restaurant that provides the discount, because the restaurant can restrict the hours when reservations may be taken.
I’ve written a couple of articles about Groupon on my sister blog, Canadian Restaurateur. This is part of a series that will cover accounting for Groupon certificates, setting up your Point of Sale (POS) system to properly track coupons and discounts, using QuickBooks to enter Groupon transactions, examining the tax treatment of Groupon certificates (this one), and finally, determining whether your restaurant should consider Groupon.
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.
When the auditor arrives to audit your bar or restaurant, he or she will review your internal controls to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your recorded sales and the taxes thereon. If the documentation is not available to determine that appropriate controls were effective throughout the audit period, the auditor will conclude that the controls were lacking and that the books and records may not be relied upon to support the sales taxes collected by the restaurant. Most independent restaurants will fall into this category. As a result, the auditor will proceed to apply an indirect audit approach to estimating the amount of sales that were likely to have been generated, based on your purchases of alcoholic beverages. Several key assumptions are used in this method, which I will describe in the remainder of this post.
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.