american citizens in canada

Post #6 – How Can HCBT Help

In the previous posts, we outlined:

  • tax compliance and reporting issues that S1 & S2 had not dealt with;
  • how HCBT could help correct prior year problems / reduce penalty exposure through a VDP submission;
  • assist with CofC submissions and the reporting of the property sale;

What we cannot do is eliminate the incremental stress and professional costs of dealing with tax authorities in a time crunch before a pending sale.

What can be learned from this?

There are important triggering life events when every taxpayer should seek appropriate and timely professional advice.  In the cross border context, all moves between countries requires professional advice.  The tax and financial consequences in both the departure and arrival country must be identified in advance.  It is imprudent to assume there are no changes from your current domestic situation or that issues can be reviewed after the move.  Often, compliance or planning issues can only be dealt with properly, before the move.  Although rare, it is conceivable that a tax / financial issue created by a transfer between countries could be sufficiently important, to rethink the move decision.

In a Canadian domestic context, any change in use of any real estate from personal to rental / business use, creates tax consequences, whether or not properties are sold.  Failure to consider these issues in advance could be costly.

HCBT has realized that sharing peoples past tax situations can be a very valuable learning tool to our clients and community. We will continue to publish sanitized client situations in future posts.  In the meantime, if you need or know someone who needs our assistance on cross border or other Canadian / US tax issues please contact us.

Pensions Rentals

Post # 5 / Damage Control

In the last post HCBT had recommended S1 & S2 access the Voluntary Disclosure Program [VDP] to possibly reduce the penalty component of their $20,000 tax problem.  However, timing was an issue.

CRA public information states that most Certificate of Compliance [CofC] requests will be processed in 30 days.  The 30-day target presumes no unresolved prior year issues.  After receiving the offer, consulting with the lawyer / HCBT less than 30 days remained before closing date.  The CofCs must be presented to the purchaser’s lawyer on closing to avoid withholding from the sale proceeds.

The VDP submission to correct the 2013 to 2015 deficiencies must be completed and submitted before the CofC request.  S1 & S2 had to scramble at the last minute to assemble old financial information from 2013 to 2016 so the proper reporting on departure and rental reporting can be completed/submitted.  Even with professional help and utilization of the VDP there was a real risk the CofC review would not be completed on time to prevent withholding of sale proceeds.  If so, the process could be extended for several months, delaying the tax refund.

S1 & S2 also needed to understand why the sale of their family home was not tax free, which is what most of the Canadian tax paying public thinks.  The theory is that 1 family unit [2 spouses plus children under 18] can own 1 family home / principal residence without paying tax on any gains realized on that home.  The tax mechanics to accomplish this are based on a formula

Exempt Gain =   Total Gain Realized   x     Principal Residence Years / Total years of ownership

Principal residence years are the years the taxpayer used the property as a family home plus 1 bonus year to allow for mid-year transactions.  In most cases the years of usage and the years of ownership are the same, so 100% of the gain is exempt.  However, in Expat or rental conversion situations a problem results.  Any year after ceasing to be a resident of Canada does not count in the top half of the fraction.  S1 & S2 had a change of use to a rental property just after departure.  Rental years do not count in the top half of the fraction.  The mechanics of the formula are such that the sheltered gain percentage gets smaller with each passing year after departure from Canada.

US Implications:  The use of the family home as a rental property and subsequent sale will also have US tax consequences, which are not discussed as part of this series of posts.

 If you want to know how HCBT can help, see post # 6.