All posts by Rob Farrow

About Rob Farrow

accountant, entrepreneur, former chef, occasional artist, angel investor, business advisor, corporate tax specialist

COVID 19 Emergency Financing

Canada Emergency Business Account

My bank (CIBC) contacted me to offer their support…

Contact your own bank to discuss details.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

We will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

The CERB is available to workers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • live in Canada and are at least 15 years old
  • stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits
  • have not voluntarily quit their job
  • had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.


On April 15, we announced changes to the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.


An online questionnaire will help us direct you to the service option that best fits your situation (i.e. eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits or not).

Do not apply for the CERB if you have already applied for EI.

You can also apply over the phone: 1‑800‑959‑2019 or 1‑800‑959‑2041



Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy


The government is proposing a 75% wage subsidy, up to a maximum of $847 per week for each eligible employee. The subsidy would be available for qualifying businesses who have suffered a decline of 30% in monthly revenue for a period of 3 months (March 2020 through May 2020).

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) supports employers that are hardest hit by the pandemic, and protect the jobs Canadians depend on.

The subsidy covers 75% of an employee’s wages – up to $847 per week – for employers of all sizes and across all sectors who have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, and 30% in April and May.

The program will be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.

Employers eligible for the CEWS are entitled to receive a 100% refund for certain employer contributions to Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan paid in respect of employees who are on leave with pay. For employers that are eligible for both the CEWS and the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for a period, any benefit from the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy for remuneration paid in a specific period will generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the CEWS in that same period.

For businesses that don’t qualify for the 75% subsidy, there is an alternative 10% subsidy for businesses (a person – including a CCPC – or a partnership) with CRA Payroll Account (Business Number with an RP0001 extension) that existed as at March 18, 2020.

The Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by 10%, to a maximum of $1,375 per employee.

COVID 19 Support for Families

The Federal Government has announced emergency support for individuals and families:

  1. Increases to the Child Tax Benefit will be automatically be adjusted for families receiving the benefit.
  2. A one-time special payment for recipients of the GST credit will be sent automatically

In addition, the filing deadline for personal tax returns has been extended from April 30th to June 1st.

More details can be found online:

The End of Bookkeeping?

Originally transactions were actually recorded in journals or “books” – hence the person recording them was called a bookkeeper. Today we still refer to accounting records as “the books of account”, but they’re almost never found in books any more.

Today transactions either begin in a digital form or are soon converted into electronic form. In 1985 97% of all payments were made by cheque. By 2017 only 14% of payments were made by cheque. However we generally don’t have cheques ‘returned’ any more. An image of the cheque is made available online – typically as a PDF file.

With online banking there is no longer any need to “record” bank transactions. Instead we download them – and “import” them into accounting software. Our cheque images can be reviewed online if we need to see them.

40 years of technological and societal change has had a profound effect on the way in which transactions are recorded in “the books of account”

In many ways this means less work – however the work is now more complex. So the traditional role of the bookkeeper has pretty much disappeared. Today we can simply download bank transactions from our online banking system.

For our smallest companies, the transactions can be summarized and compiled
using sophisticated spreadsheet software. For somewhat larger companies,
transactions are pulled automatically from the bank and imported into
accounting software.

Today a CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL BOOKKEEPER (“CPB”) uses accounting software. While we
still call it bookkeeping, it is actually much more sophisticated and complex than small business bookkeeping used to be. Unfortunately, the certification for CPBs is limited to examination by accounting software publishers in the use of their accounting software. 

In our view at least, post-secondary training in accounting and tax should actually be mandatory for anyone providing accounting services to the public. That is why some of our associates formed the RECORDS MANAGEMENT TECHNICIANS OF CANADA in 2019.


WAVE was one of 3 online accounting packages that our firm has recommended in the past.

It is a good fit for companies who don’t require bank (or credit card) accounts in multiple currencies. For those that do we recommend either:

  1. XERO
  2. QBO (Quickbooks Online)

It will be interesting to see whether the acquisition by H&R Block will have any effect on the software itself.

Wave – Xero – Quickbooks – Which is Better for Startups?

Having used WAVE ACCOUNTING for over 3 years, we were quite satisfied with it, for our small consulting practice. However we had never used it in a situation where multiple currencies were necessary. 
While WAVE does provide multi-currency capabilities, the reporting for US-denominated banks, AR or AP does not allow for reporting at run time in either the local currency or the foreign currency. This could be a factor and might lead to higher bookkeeping and review costs.
This may not be a deal breaker, but should be considered as a factor when deciding on which online service to use.

I used to say  “choose your bookkeeper NOT your accounting software”. That is probably still good advice, BUT it’s awfully difficult to hire someone for a function that you don’t fully understand.

In fact it’s just about as hard as selecting a tool for doing something you don’t know how to do. If you knew how to do it, it would be much easier to know which tool to buy.

What is a Startup Anyway?

The first thing you’ll need to consider is the kind of business you actually are – and what you’re trying to be. I’d like to refer you to another post that discusses this issue in detail –

What is a startup?

For someone at a very early stage the answer will be different than it would be for a venture-backed startup with 15 or 20 employees…

I recently read a post from an self-described “outsourced CFO” by the name of Seth David:

Now, if you’re a business owner who just wants to keep the books for a business, then you probably have no idea what I am talking about, and I’m equally certain you wouldn’t care. That is until you decided to hire someone like me—an outsourced CFO. And you do that because you want the strategic analysis and guidance. You want to take your books beyond compiling a tax return once a year, and you want to analyze the information. – Seth David, Fundera

Mr. David is right “if you’re hiring an outsourced CFO”,…

but you won’t be hiring one if your company is at a very early stage. So if you’re planning on hiring an outsourced CFO right away, ask them to recommend the software. It’s been my experience though, that most early stage companies are at least 4 or 5 years away from hiring a CFO.

In fact most “outsourced CFOs” are really more like public accountants – typically with an accounting designation and 5 or 6 clients. They mostly operate without the overhead (or regulation) of CPAs in public practice, and provide bookkeeping and accounting services at discounted or “bulk” rates.

My perspective is different than Seth David’s – primarily because my clients need tax advice (primarily for tax incentives) and need to file tax returns.


If your company is a little further along in it’s development, Seth David’s article is certainly worth a read…

quickbooks-online-vs-xero by Seth David

For a “seed stage” company – or a new “lifestyle business” with 5 or fewer employees, the volume of transactions is  really trivial. So the choice is probably simpler:

  1.  choose a bookkeeping service that meets your needs and let them choose the software
  2. choose QBO or Xero if you actually need multi-currency support (bank accounts or invoicing in US dollars – or other non-Canadian currency)
  3. if you have a bookkeeper on staff (why? – the number of transactions is trivial anyway) – choose WAVE unless the bookkeeper is experienced and has a preference – or you need multi-currrency support (see 2 above)

WAVE ACCOUNTING is 1 of 3 online accounting packages we use and recommend for Canadian small businesses.

Each of the 3 packages will function adequately for the needs of this kind of business. For me WAVE gets the nod because it is basically free – unless you need multi-currency suppoort. However the annual licensing cost for the most expensive option is only about $700 (Xero lists it’s pricing in USD). If that is a minor consideration for your business, you may want look in more detail at either QUICKBOOKS ONLINE or XERO.

In future posts we’ll discuss the different approach and business models of these 3 suppliers.

Online Bookkeeping Services

These days small businesses are faced with many different options for accounting and bookkeeping services online…

A new generation of CPA firms is even starting to get in on the act.



Note that this firm is selling year-end packages monthly that don’t actually include the bookkeeping. The price for year end work looks fair. They seem to work on the assumption that they can actually train non-accountants to do the bookkeeping themselves during the year.

It isn’t until they reach annual billings of $12,000 to $60,000 that they include bookkeeping services in their service offerings.

BENCH.CO – A Vancouver Success Story

I initially ran into BENCH when they were a New York-based startup operating as 10 SHEET. They use their own proprietary software – and all of their bookkeepers are local and have been subjected to criminal record checks.

Bench Security

The cost of their services seems very high, given their notion of what constitutes theirSTARTER or MICRO packages (STARTER below $1k – MICRO up to $7.5K in monthly transactions).

Bench Pricing

At these levels we’d expect to see unincorporated individuals whose “businesses” represent working part-time out of their apartment…I just hope that those prices are in Canadian dollars!


Less Accounting does a great job of marketing – I love the picture of Donnie Cooper with tape on his glasses. But then I’m a sucker for self-deprecating humour.

Meet Donnie

However the pricing is in US dollars and once again seems pretty high.

Less Acctg Pricing

“Businesses” that qualify for the TINY or FREELANCER plans should probably just download credit card and bank transactions and have someone summarize them once a year for their tax accountant.


Wave Bookkeeping

Depending on how quickly the cost of their bookkeeping services escalates, WAVE may actually offer the most cost effective services of those discussed in this post…









About Quickbooks Online


Like Xero, Quickbooks Online works with accountants to try to encourage us to recommend their products…

Apparently Quickbooks (online and desktop) commands 60% of the Canadian market – and it’s hard to argue with their success.


What’s more their partner program for accountants is straightforward. They simply offer 50% for accountants who pay for the plan on behalf of their clients.

QBO Review

Pricing appears more straightforward than Xero’s – what’s more they list their Canadian prices in Canadian dollars…


About Xero

XeroWe are Xero-certified partners and provide services to a number of clients who use it. I think it is a great option for clients who suit their Xero Ledger product – which is a very low-cost package ($3 USD per month) meant for very small clients. This particular package is only available from a Xero-certified partner.

Companies that require multi-currency support will need to opt for their most expensive package ($40 USD) per month. If the monthly cost is trivial for your company, this is a great package for those who require multi-currency support.

Xero and Quickbooks both work hard to get CPAs and bookkeeping firms to recommend their software and offer discounts to their accounting partners to offer their software to clients.

Xero Review Packages

Xero Review CPA Packages

It seems to us that Xero is a favorite with technology startups. By contrast, Quickbooks is more popular generally.