Best resources for small farm tax, accounting & legalities info?

Hi everyone,

I run a small market garden and it’s looking like I will break the $7000 profit mark this year (hurray!), which got me thinking about getting a Farm Business Registration #, which got me thinking about a whole bunch of other business stuff.

I have a fairly solid foundation regarding the business side of small-scale farming - I did Everdale’s Farm Business Planner course a few years back, made a business plan, keep a budget, have a business license, insurance, crop plan, harvest tracking etc etc but one area I get stuck on is what my obligations are in terms of financial record keeping, taxes, accounting/bookkeeping, and all that administrative stuff as my farm business grows.

Where have you all learned about these things? Is there a specific website or organization that details these things for farmers, and specifically small farmers who aren’t cash croppers? My main concern is that I’m missing something important that has legal implications or will impact my success later on.

Any help is greatly appreciated!


Hi Martina; I recommend looking into Turbotax for farmer,

Hi Martina,
Have you considered speaking to a farm-specific accountant? I was nervous about screwing up my taxes so got an accountant for our first farm year (last year) and got lots of farm-specific useful tips. I used the company Collins Barrow.

For the farm number you only need $7000 of revenue, not profit, so you may qualify already.

I recommend avoiding any software by Intuit (e.g. TurboTax, QuickBooks). If you read their licensing agreement, you are granting them an irrevocable license to use your data for any purpose anywhere in the world: “You grant Intuit a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to host and use any Content provided through your use of the Software.” (section 5.1 of the QuickBooks agreement)

Stay away from any web-based accounting packages – they usually require you to open yourself, your customers and suppliers to cyberstalking. They also inherently take away control of your data from you and are far less secure than keeping the data on your computer.

I use Ufile for taxes (NOT online) and AccountEdge (formerly Mind Your Own Business or MYOB) for accounting.

Did you mean revenue or profit Martina? It makes a difference as you can apply for the FBR when your “gross farm revenue” exceeds 7000$, not your profit.

Also, you can apply the year “before” you hit that mark as an “exemption” and get your FBR sooner (which is what I did), which is really nice as I got the Farm Class Tax Rate sooner than I would have otherwise.

As for bookkeeping and accounting, I agree with other comments up there, don’t take any chances and hire an accountant with experience specific to farm businesses. They do this day in and day out, something no farmer will ever have time (or interest for most) to wrap their heads around. I was lucky enough that my partner has professional experience with bookkeeping so she took care of the books (which is easy enough to learn and your accountant can give you direction and advice on this), but leave the accounting and income tax shenanigans to the experts is my advice.

We used Sage Accounting software for bookkeeping, but only because that’s what our accountant used as it made everything that much easier. But with all the export features nowadays, you can probably use easier software than Sage (Quickbooks and whatnot), just make sure you check with your accountant first.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions about hiring an accountant and regarding the FBRN. I meant gross revenue, not net.

I did look into getting an FBRN ahead of time, but it’s complicated since I rent an urban plot of land, and the online application made it seem impossible without being the owner of a rural farm property. (Any tips?)

Has anyone used Freshbooks? I’d like to do my own bookkeeping as much as possible, but I know at some point I’ll need an accountant to help me get things organized for tax time. A program I can easily use at home to track things for this would be ideal.

At what farm income level did you start reporting farm income on your taxes? I only grow produce, so have not had to charge HST on my sales.

So, I have to ask, why do you want to get a farm number? Besides that you’re “supposed” to get one. I understand in Denis case about getting the lower property tax, but in your case, as well as a “friend” of mine’s case, when you’re on leased land, it seems like a waste of money, unless you have a strong alliance with one of the three farm groups, OFA, CFFO or NFU. Is there any other tax advantages? Maybe I’m just a cynic.

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I use Simple Tax to file personal taxes online, for free, and there are fields to enter farm related expenses and income by category. If you start tracking your expenses according to these categories early on, it should be easier to file everything at the end of the year as a sole proprietor. I heard about this approach through Everdale’s farm planner course as well - I think the presenter (Vera from Trout Lily) did her tracking manually on an excel spreadsheet, but you could also use an accountant or software.

I’ve used Quickbooks Online with other businesses and like it. Freshbooks and other platforms like Wave seem decent too. Good luck!

HI Rob,

good question - it looks like we are legally obligated to get a FBRN once we hit $7000 in gross farm income. I’m also unsure of this but I think it might be necessary in order to get an HST number, which gets you a tax discount on farm purchases.

I don’t get a property tax break since I don’t own the land I’m using.

Thanks for the suggestions re: accounting software, I will look into some of these.

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I think Rob Campbell gave some bad advice. Cloud based software is the way of the future and quite secure - even banks are online. If you take this advice, you will make your life much harder than it has to be. Quickbooks online is fantastic and they have excellent customer support. I’ve called many times for help and they tell you where to enter certain transactions, give basic accounting advice, etc. Pretty good value for about $30/month.

Of course we are both entitled to our opinions, Kevin. Responding to your arguments…

“Cloud based software is the way of the future…”: yes, but just because many tech and financial corporations want you to trust them with the privacy, security, and control of your information does not mean that this is in your best interest.

“…quite secure…”: “Secure” means the company (Intuit in the case of QuickBooks) doesn’t let your data get accessed by people Intuit doesn’t authorize to access it. Just remember that you agreed to let them do whatever they want wherever they want with your data (I think I quoted the exact contract terms in my previous post) which can include selling it to anyone.

I’m saying “buyer beware” and that there are alternatives. Yes it takes effort to find them but the software isn’t necessarily worse or more poorly supported than that of the big names.

Thanks for providing counterpoints.

My other point is that it is A LOT of work to change accounting software even with a clean switch between accounting years and porting utilities so it pays to do a bit of research up front to get a package you will be happy with for years to come.

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I think you both (Rob and Kevin) make good points regarding different types of solutions. Obviously security is never a guarantee when dealing with online software solutions, but neither is it guaranteed on your own computer using desktop software where you are vulnerable to phishing, malware, viruses, ransomware, and data theft. I think it comes down to what you feel the most comfortable with, as long as you are well informed regarding the pros and cons of each type of solution.