More dual US/Canada citizens will pay capital gains tax on sale of principal residence in Canada

The price of Toronto real estate continues its upward trajectory.
This morning I met with yet another (who could have known) Canadian resident who wishes to renounce U.S. citizenship. This person is completely compliant with his U.S. tax obligations. He is renouncing for a very common reason.

The reason for renouncing U.S. citizenship is to:

Protect the tax free capital gain, which results from the sale of his Canadian principal residence in Canada.

The sale of a Canadian principal resident is subject to U.S. capital gains tax!

As a U.K. citizen and resident Boris Johnson recently learned:

The sale or a principal residence may be exempt from capital gains tax under Canadian or U.K. tax law; but

The sale of a principal residence is subject to capital gains tax under U.S. law!
(Boris Johnson recently renounced U.S. citizenship. His renunciation may or may not have been related to his appointment as British Foreign Minister.)

To put it another way, he is renouncing U.S. citizenship to protect his retirement asset.

Interestingly, very few Canadians who are also U.S. citizens, have realized that the sale of their Canadian principal residence is subject to U.S. capital gains tax. It is likely that a very large number of dual citizens resident in Canada, have sold their principal residence and NOT paid U.S. tax on that sale. They never knew about this U.S. tax requirement.

Canadian tax returns prior to October 3, 2016 …

Prior to October 3, 2016 there was no requirement that the sale of the principal residence be reported on a Canadian tax return. Because the sale of the principal residence was NOT reported on the Canadian tax return, many U.S. tax preparers (who would base the U.S. return on the Canadian return) would NOT have known about the sale of the principal residence. As a result, they may NOT have reported the sale on the U.S. return.

Canadian tax returns after October 3, 2016* …

The sale of the Canadian principal residence is NOW required to be reported on the Canadian return. This will increase awareness of the sale. The increase in the awareness of the sale will certainly lead to more reporting of the sale of the principal residence on the U.S. return.

A change in Canadian tax regulations leads to a change in how people complete U.S. tax returns …

Those Canada/U.S. dual citizens who are NOT covered expatriates (their net worth is below 2 million USD among other things) should consider renouncing U.S. citizenship in order to protect the tax free capital gain – and their retirement asset – from U.S. taxation.

*Here is the text of the information from the Canada Revenue Agency:

Reporting the sale of your principal residence for individuals (other than trusts)

On October 3, 2016, the Government announced an administrative change to Canada Revenue Agency’s reporting requirements for the sale of a principal residence.

When you sell your principal residence or when you are considered to have sold it, usually you do not have to report the sale on your income tax and benefit return and you do not have to pay tax on any gain from the sale. This is the case if you are eligible for the full income tax exemption (principal residence exemption) because the property was your principal residence for every year you owned it.

Starting with the 2016 tax year, generally due by late April 2017, you will be required to report basic information (date of acquisition, proceeds of disposition and description of the property) on your income tax and benefit return when you sell your principal residence to claim the full principal residence exemption.

John Richardson Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

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