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No matter what you do for a living, one thing is sure. Eventually, you will have to pay taxes on the income you earn throughout the year. Typically, the more money you make, the higher your annual income tax bill will be. 

That said, what some taxpayers might not realize is that you’ll have to file a different tax return if you’re not an employee of a traditional business. If you’re a consultant, freelancer, or another type of self-employed or contract worker, paying your income taxes may be a bit more complicated. 

Employee vs Contractor: Key Points 

  • Payroll employees have their taxes deducted at source, while contractors and other self-employed individuals must deduct taxes and contributions from their earnings themselves. 
  • Contractors are recommended to set aside 25%-30% of earnings for tax payments. 
  • As a contractor, you may be required to prepay tax throughout the year in installments.
  • As a contractor, you’ll need to file a regular personal income tax return and a business return using Form T2125. 
  • As an independent contractor, you’ll have more control over work hours, pay and subcontractors you work with. 

Employee vs. Contractor: Which One Are You For Tax Purposes? 

As mentioned, there are a few significant differences between paying taxes when you’re self-employed and when you’re on a company’s payroll.

  • Employee – Employees are individuals who work for a company and have a boss who provides them with the tools and information to do their job. Employees also receive recurring paycheques and vacation entitlements. 
  • Contractor – Contractors work independently and are their own boss. They are generally compensated after the job has been completed, but can charge a retainer. Independent contractors are classified as self-employed.  

How To Determine If You’re An Employee Or A Contractor

According to the CRA, these are the 4 key components you would use to determine whether you qualify as a contractor or a payroll employee:

How Much Control You Have: Employee vs Contractor

  • Employee – If you’re a payroll employee, you would have a traditional employee-employer relationship with your boss and, as a result, you’ll have very little control over how much you earn or what you pay in taxes. 
  • Contractor – As an independent contractor, you get to work as little or as much as you desire and set your own rate and hours. The amount you work will impact your income tax bills. 

Who Provides The Tools Of The Trade: Employee vs Contractor

  • Employee – As a payroll employee, your employer should be providing any training, supplies, and equipment you use on the job, as well as dealing with any associated costs and taxes. 
  • Contractor  – If you’re an independent contractor, you’ll generally need to finance, insure, and repair all your own tools. These costs may be used to deduct your income taxes. The same can be said about your meals and other business expenditures, such as vehicle-related costs, utilities, and resources. 

How Much Profit, Loss & Risk is Involved

  • Employee – As a payroll employee, on the other hand, any profits, losses, and risks the business takes on are the sole responsibility of your employer. 
  • Contractor – When you’re an independent contractor, not only will you be responsible for declaring your income, but you’ll also be liable for any debts you’ve accumulated or investments you’ve made. 

Whether You Can Subcontract Work or Hire Additional Help 

  • Employee – Another area where you’ll have less control as a payroll employee is who you work with. Although you can always recommend a friend or family member for a job at the same company, they may not work for or with you. 
  • Contractor  – If you’re an independent contractor, you can subcontract extra work and hire any assistants you want, at the optional expense of whoever is paying you.

Employee vs. Contractor: How Taxes Work

Paying taxes is easier for the average full or part-time payroll employee because their employer will simply deduct a portion of their paycheque periodically and send it to the Canada Revenue Agency on their behalf. Afterward, the employee simply needs to fill out their tax return using their T4 slip.

On the other hand, independent contractors and other self-employed individuals must monitor their own earnings and figure out exactly how much they owe the CRA per annum. They must calculate and set aside enough funds for tax season. In some cases, they may need to prepay in installments ahead of the June self-employment filing deadline

The Advantages Of Being A Employee vs Contractor

Now that you’re able to figure out if you qualify as a contractor or payroll employee, let’s talk about some of the personal and financial advantages that come with both statuses, whether they relate to taxes or not:

Advantages – Contractor

  • On average, you can make more money per year (your income is not fixed) 
  • You have more flexibility on and off the job (rate, hours, time off, etc.)
  • You can subcontract additional work and hire whoever you want
  • You have full control over your business and its budget

All this said, being a consultant may have more disadvantages than being a payroll employee because you won’t qualify for any sort of medical or financial benefits, including job security or vacation. If and when your client needs to make cutbacks, your contract will probably be one of the first to go, while a payroll employee can file for unemployment. Finally, you are also responsible for paying the employer’s portion of Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions.

Advantages – Employee

  • You may be eligible for job security, paid vacation time, and other benefits
  • You generally have a guaranteed income 
  • Your employer makes half your EI and CPP contributions for you
  • You are not responsible for any debts or losses your employer incurs

As mentioned, perhaps the main disadvantage of being a payroll employee is that you’ll have less flexibility in terms of how much income you’re making, what hours you work, and who you work with. You also have less control over how much you’ll pay in taxes and how large your return will be every year. 

Check out these tax tips for independent contractors and gig workers.

How Much Money You Should Set Aside For Taxes As A Contractor

Remember, if you’re an independent contractor, your taxes won’t automatically be deducted from your paycheck throughout the year. It’s your responsibility to set aside enough money to cover your income taxes before the next tax season arrives. 

Although the specific amount you need will fluctuate according to how much revenue you pull in, it’s recommended that you save up at least 25%-30% of your total earnings. You can also get a basic estimation by finding out which tax bracket you fall into.

Your Federal Tax Rate, According To Your Tax Bracket

Federal Tax RateFederal Income Tax Brackets
15%Applicable to taxable income up to $55,867
20.5%Applicable to taxable income over $55,867 up to $111,733
26%Applicable to taxable income over $111,733 up to $173,205
29%Applicable to taxable income over $173,205 up to $246,752
33%Applicable to taxable income over $246,752

The Tax Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Independent Contractor

These days, the vast majority of Canadian workers would still qualify as payroll employees. 

But if you’re thinking about taking on some independent contract work or starting your own business, it’s essential to be aware of the main tax advantages and disadvantages that are associated, such as the ones below:

Advantages

  • It’s possible to deduct certain business expenses (utilities, resources, etc.)
  • You can claim the depreciation of your fixed assets and other losses
  • You might make more income and have more flexible hours 

Disadvantages    

  • Your final tax bill can be larger than that of a payroll employee
  • You have to file any returns, deductions, or claims by yourself 
  • You have to pay your own employer and employee contributions toward Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) 

Line 10100 and Line 15000, do you know what they are?

How To File Your Taxes As A Contractor

In the end, there are both benefits and drawbacks that come with paying taxes as an independent contract worker. Although you’ll have to file all the necessary paperwork on your own, the process is relatively simple. Here’s how you get started:

Complete Form T2125 

The first thing you must do is fill out Form T2125, otherwise known as a Statement of Business or Professional Activities. This form will help you to declare any income and expenditures you made from self-employed commission sales. On it, you will find various spaces to identify things like:

  • The details of your business and partners, if any (names, addresses, etc.)
  • Your main sources of income (professional, business, etc.)
  • The cost of goods you sold and gross profit you made 
  • Your net income losses before and after adjustments 
  • Your business expenses (equipment, building additions, etc.) 
  • The details of your equity/assets (land, vehicles, etc.) 
  • Your Capital Cost Allowance claim (CCA)
  • The penalties and/or interest your assets have incurred (CCP, EI, etc.)

Before you get started, keep in mind that the exact documentation you’ll need to file during tax season will differ according to how much income you’re earning, as well as the general financial state of your business. 

It’s Never Too Early To Get A Jump Start On Your Taxes 

While you may have just finished paying your federal income taxes, it’s good to have an idea of what your income and employment situation will be like when the next fiscal year comes to an end. If you’re having trouble with this, it may be wise to speak with a certified professional so you can pay your tax bill without a hitch. 

Employee vs Contractor FAQs

I didn’t make a profit as an independent contractor, do I still have to file my taxes?

Even if you didn’t earn a profit this tax year, you still earned an income (your expenses were higher than your income). You still need to file a tax return that includes all the necessary information about your independent contractor business. 

Can I be a full-time employee and an independent contractor at the same time?

Many Canadians juggle a full-time job with one employer and a side hustle that connects them to several other employers. While rare, it’s not unheard of for one individual to earn a full-time income from their employer while also having a side contract with that same employer. A good idea is to check with your employer first in case your company has any non-compete or moonlighting policies in place.

Does an independent contractor have to pay into CPP/QPP?

Yes, as an independent contractor, you are responsible for contributing your full CPP/QPP amount.
Bryan Daly avatar on Loans Canada
Bryan Daly

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and travelling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer.

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