Sold your House? Make Sure You Report It!


If you have sold your home recently, you should take note of the new reporting rules announced by the CRA regarding the principal residence exemption (“PRE”).

The PRE applies on a pro-rata basis based on the number of years you are claiming the house as your principal residence. Form T2091 is technically required to report and claim the PRE on the sale. If you were claiming the exemption for the full period of ownership, then the gain on the sale is fully exempt from tax. The CRA’s policy until now has been that no reporting was required in such a case.

However, for 2016 and future years, this administrative policy has changed. Form T2091 is still not required if the full exemption is claimed, However, the sale must be reported on Schedule 3 of your tax return for the year. You will need to report a description of the property,  the year of acquisition and  the proceeds of disposition. Failure to report the sale will result in the denial of the PRE. However, you may go back and amend your return to report the sale and claim the exemption, subject to possible penalties of $100 per month to a maximum of $8,000.

For Quebec tax reporting, there has never been any administrative policy regarding a fully exempt sale of a principal residence and form TP-274 continues to be required.

Changes for Trusts

If your principal residence is owned by a trust, new rules will apply to you. I outlined the current rules in a previous post.

Under the new rules, only certain specialized trusts are now eligible to claim the PRE. They are alter-ego trusts, certain spousal or common law partner trusts, certain protective trusts or certain qualified disability trusts.

Starting in 2017, any trust that owns a home and does not fit within any of the categories above, will no longer be eligible for the PRE on the sale of the home. Therefore, if the house is sold before the end of 2016, the PRE can still be claimed.

For 2017 and later years, a home that was owned by a trust that no longer qualifies for the PRE will be allowed to calculate the exemption based on transitional rules that would require a valuation of the property as at the end of 2016. The PRE will be available for the “notional” gain up to the end of 2016, while the future growth in value will be subject to capital gains tax.

Anyone who currently lives in a home owned by a personal trust should consult their tax advisor.

Changes for Non-Residents

New rules will also apply to anyone who was a non-resident at the time they purchased a residential property in Canada. Under the current rules, the pro-rata formula that is used to calculate the PRE allows for an extra year (the plus 1 rule) in calculating the exemption. This generally allows for the fact that in a year where someone sells their home, they may own two properties, both of which should qualify for the exemption.

For a non-resident, the plus 1 rule allowed them to claim a portion of their gain as exempt, even though they never qualified since they were non-residents of Canada. Accordingly, for all sales on or after October 3, 2016, the Plus 1 rule will no longer be available to any taxpayer who was a non-resident of Canada in during the year in which he or she acquired the property. There are no transitional rules to this provision.

What’s Your Tax Issue? Sale of Estate Assets

The Tax Issue

I am in the midst of settling my mother’s estate and my accountant has told me I have to sell her house within one year or else I’ll have to pay capital gains tax. He is also telling me that all my mother’s possessions such as jewellery, furniture and  and artwork may be subject to tax. I’ve never heard of this. Can you tell me if he is right?

The Answer

OK, the first thing you must know is that generally, upon the death of an individual, she is deemed to have disposed of all her capital property immediately before her death for proceeds equal to fair market value at that time.

First, let’s deal with the house. I’m assuming your mother lived in the house for the full time she owned it and it is eligible for the principal residence exemption. That means there will be no tax on the gain at death, but you will still inherit the place at a tax cost to you equal to the fair market value of the house at the time of her death.

Now the question is, how do you determine what the fair market value was at the time of death? Well the best way is to actually sell the house immediately. The closer the date of the sale to the date of death, the better estimate you have of the value at death. The longer you wait to sell, the more you will have to rely on an estimate of the value at the time of death based on valuation methods. Whatever the difference is between the value at the time of death (i.e., your tax cost) and the actual sale proceeds when you sell will become a capital gain or loss in your hands.

If you feel the value will be going up in the future, then if you plan to sell, do it sooner rather than later if you want to avoid having to report a capital gain on the increase in value from the time of death.

If the value goes down, then selling within the first year of death allows you to make a special election to use the capital loss against any gains reported on your mother’s final tax return.

Now to the other stuff. Technically speaking, all personal belongings are referred to in the law as “personal use property”, and they are subject to special rules. They are also deemed disposed of at the time of death at fair market value. The only difference is that each item has a deemed minimum cost base and minimum value for tax purposes of $1,000. So, any item that is worth less than $1,000 will not be taxed.  Gains will be taxed, and losses, if any, may be applied only against gains from other personal use property.

Items such as jewellery and artwork are another subset of personal use property called “listed personal property”, and are also subject to the above rules. Losses on this type of property, however, can only be applied against gains from other listed personal property.

What’s Your tax Issue? Workspace At Home

Well, it’s tax time again, and so from now until the end of April, The Tax Issue will be devoted to your tax issues. So send in your questions and subscribe to this blog to make sure you don’t miss the answer!

Today’s question is very interesting and it affects many people as more and more are working from home these days.

The Tax Issue

My late husband was a CA and he always said we should not claim some of our home office expenses as it would create some sort of problem when we later sold the house. He died a decade ago and I am the furthest thing from a CA that there is!

Last year, my job changed and I now work at home full-time. My employer issued a T2200 for me to claim office supplies and other expenses. If I claim part of my heat, power and desk chair, will that trigger any problems in two years to come when I sell my house?

The Answer

Don’t worry about selling your home, you’ll be fine!

The fact is, as an employee, you can claim only certain specific expenses as required by law, and those are subject to some very strict conditions. Your employer must require you to work at home. Thus, the requirement for the T2200 form.

In order to claim part of your home expenses, you must meet one of the following two conditions:

  • The work space is where you mainly (more than 50% of the time) do your work.
  • You use the work space only to earn your employment income. You also have to use it on a regular and continuous basis for meeting clients or customers.

You can deduct the part of your costs that relates to your work space, such as the cost of electricity, heating and maintenance. However, as an employee, you cannot deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance or capital cost allowance (depreciation).

To calculate the percentage of work-space-in-the-home expenses you can deduct, use a reasonable basis, such as the area of the work space divided by the total area.

If you need more information on deductions of home expenses or other employment expenses you can claim, you will find it at the CRA website.

Now, back to your late husband and his concerns. The rules on home office expenses are different for self-employed people. They can claim a portion of taxes, insurance, mortgage interest and depreciation (CCA) in the calculation of their self-employed earnings. However, if they choose to claim CCA, they will likely suffer in the end when the house is sold, since it will not completely be eligible for tax-free treatment as a principal residence. That’s what he was worried about and that’s why most self-employed people are advised not to claim CCA on their homes.

What’s Your Tax Issue? Residence in a Trust

Our House is a very very very fine house

                  –Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The Tax Issue

I am a member (beneficiary) of a family trust that was set up years ago by my Dad. The trust currently owns two houses. I live in one, and my sister, who is also a member of the trust, is married and lives in the other. We were told that we will have taxes to pay we sell our homes. Can this be true? Please help, as no one seems to know the answer.

The Answer

The principal residence rules that apply to personal trusts are surprisingly restrictive and can be a trap for the unwary.

A trust is treated as a person for tax purposes. As such, it does have access to the principal residence exemption on the sale of a home. But here’s the kicker: if a trust designates a home as a principal residence for a given year, then every beneficiary of that trust who lived in or used the home owned by the trust is deemed to have made the designation. And remember, a person can only designate one property as her principal residence. This applies to a trust as well. This means that if the trust sells the home you are living in and claims it as a principal residence, then when the trust sells your sister’s home, the trust is precluded from making the designation on the second home. Her home becomes ineligible for the exemption for those years even though it may be the only home she’s lived in. This might come as a shock, and it seems unfair, but that is the way the law works.

So, let’s look at an example. Say the trust owned your home since 2000 and it is sold in 2012 at a gain of $500,000. Furthermore, let’s assume the trust owned your sister’s home since 1996, and sells in 2012 at a gain of $400,000. If the trust claims the full principal residence exemption on your home, then it will be precluded from claiming the exemption for the years 2000 – 2012 on your sister’s home. In fact, for the 16 years the trust owned your sister’s home, only 4 will qualify, so only 4/16 of the gain will be exempt. (Actually, the formula generously adds 1 year to numerator, so technically 5/16, or $125,000 of the total gain will be exempt).

Also, if a trust claims the principal residence exemption on home, then all beneficiaries of that trust who may have used the home are deemed to have used their own principal residence exemptions on that property. So, for example, if a summer cottage is owned by a trust and is used by all the family members, some of whom own their own homes, they could lose their exemptions if the trust claims the cottage as a principal residence.

Taxpayers thinking about placing personal homes in a family trust should always seek professional tax advise.

What’s Your Tax Issue?

Tax season is upon us, and here at The Tax Issue, the questions are streaming in at a furious pace. I had a few free minutes this afternoon, so I thought I’d tackle some of the backlog.

The Tax Issue:

My partner and I each have holding companies that have joint ownership of our operating company.  If we wanted to sell a 1/3rd share in the operating company is there a mechanism to utilize our personal capital gains exemption?

The Answer:

The capital gains exemption is a $750,000 lifetime limit available to all Canadian resident individuals. It can be used to shelter capital gains on the sale of either qualified farm property or qualified shares of a small business corporation.

Since the shares of your operating company are held through a holding company, the exemption would not be available in the situation you describe. Your holding company would be the vendor of the shares and the exemption is available to individuals only.

Having said that, there may be some “reorganization” of shares you could perform to get you into a better position. Such planning would go beyond what I could explain here, so I would explore these options with a tax professional.

The Tax Issue:

I am a Canadian living/working in the US and considered non-resident of Canada for tax purposes. I do have a rental property in Canada and looking for an easy way to file my income tax on the rental property. What I have read so far makes me believe that I must file my taxes through an agent in Canada. I am wondering if I can file my taxes without using an agent and what is the process to do that.

The Answer:

The short answer is that you do not need to file a tax return through an agent.

Since you are a non-resident of Canada, the Canadian person who pays you rent must withhold taxes and remit them to the CRA on a regular basis. This person could be your tenant directly, or a Canadian agent who manages the property and collects rent on your behalf. Either way, there has to be a Canadian responsible for withholding and remitting these taxes.

You then have the option of filing a tax return under section 216 of the Income Tax Act. The taxes previously withheld would be treated as a credit against your taxes payable. There are two options for withholding and filing under section 216. I have discussed this mechanism in a previous post. Check it out. Also, the CRA has an extensive section on their web site dealing with the issue.

The Tax Issue:

My mother passed away in 1995 and my father gifted her 50% portion of a house to me, however kept himself on title for the other 50%.   He had another house that he resided in.   He kept his name on solely to protect my interest in case of divorce.    He passed away in May 2010 and now I’m told that I may have to pay capital gains.   I don’t understand why I have to pay capital gains if I’m not selling the property and the property has been my principal residence.   He had nothing to do with the house.   Is there anything I can do to avoid paying this capital gains tax?

The Answer:

Unfortunately, it sounds like your father was the owner of more than one principal residence. Upon the death of an individual, he is deemed to have disposed of all his capital property at fair market value. That includes any real estate he owned. There is an exemption for a principal residence. The definition of “principal residence” includes, not only the house he lived in, but can also include a house occupied by his child. The downside is that his estate can only claim one property as a principal residence.

Your father’s executor will have to determine which of the properties he should claim as his principal residence in order to minimize the taxes on his death. I would call in the help of a good tax accountant to crunch those numbers.

What’s Your Tax Issue? More Personal Property Issues

The Tax Issue:

In 2002, my parents put their principal residence in joint tenancy with my husband and myself. We lived on the property for a period of time. We have, since 2002, contributed to repairs and upkeep. In 2005, my father died. In 2010, my mother died. We currently use the home as a seasonal property but we plan to rent it out a few weeks of the year in order to have it pay for its upkeep. What I am wondering about is Capital Gains Tax. I am sure our portion (or maybe all of it minus the costs incurred and that step-up thing?)is subject to it, however, is it only payable if the property is sold? Also, is the step-up determined from when we received our interests in the property in 2002 or when it was no longer my mom’s principal residence (because she died) in 2010?

Hey, as an aside…do you recommend claiming rental income from a seasonal vacation rental as “rental income” on a personal tax return or as “business income” on a personal tax return (I did register my husband and myself as a general partnership – if that matters)…you probably recommend that the time has come to hire an accountant, right? 😉

The Answer:

OK, let’s tackle the easy question first. You will only pay capital gains tax on the property when it’s sold.

Now, when your parents transferred the property to you in 2002, they had a deemed disposition at fair market value, so that your cost is equal to the value of the property at that time. If you have made any capital improvements since that time, you may add those to your cost.

When you sell the property, a portion of the gain may be exempt if you claim the property as your principal residence. That’s not such an easy decision to make. You can designate only one property as a principal residence in any given year, so if you owned any other residence, you may want to save those years for the property with the higher accrued gain.

Next, rental income must be reported as “rental income” not “business income”. There is no choice in the matter. Registering as a partnership doesn’t really change a thing, other than you’ve protected your partnership’s name, if any.

And finally, nothing beats a good accountant. They’re cute, warm and cuddly and yes, I do recommend you use one.

Good luck!!

Mortgage Interest – It’s On The House!

It’s not often that a tax planner gets a freebee, so I’m just  giddy about this one! A recent tax court case and a related CRA opinion both give a detailed description of a tax plan and both say it’s OK!

Let’s say you have a home that is mortgage-free. You’ve decided to buy a new home, and convert your old home to rental property. If you simply move out and purchase a new residence and take a mortgage to finance it, the interest on that mortgage will not be tax-deductible, since the proceeds of the loan are used to purchase a residence. Meanwhile, your rental property (your former residence) is still mortgage-free – not the best result.

So, here’s the plan: First, sell your existing home at fair market value to someone you trust – let’s say it’s your brother. Your brother pays you with a promissory note. There is no income tax on the sale, because the property was your principal residence.

Next, Buy back the old home from your brother. To finance this purchase, you take out a mortgage on this home. Now that the home is to be used as a rental property, the future interest payments will be tax-deductible.

The mortgage proceeds go to your brother as consideration for the sale of the property back to you. He then uses these funds to pay off the promissory note he issued to you when he bought the old home.

You now have the funds from the promissory note in your hands. You can use this money to buy yourself a new home.

The Tax Court of Canada, in the case of Sherle v. The Queen, actually volunteered this plan as a way to make mortgage interest deductible in the above scenario, and the CRA approved it in a recent technical interpretation.

There you go — it’s on the house!

What’s Your Tax Issue? Related Party Sale of Home

The Tax Issue:

Hi David,

My girlfriend (soon to be fiance) and I are seriously considering purchasing her parents home since they will be moving in six months time.  Her father has offered to sell the house to us at a price that is $40,000 below the fair market value.  It is my understanding that as long as I purchase the house from him before we are married (therefore not related for tax purposes), then there will be no tax consequences for him or myself on the transaction.  However, I’m also of the understanding that if I purchased the house from him after we were married than there would also be no tax consequences for him or myself since he would have use of his principal residence exemption which would eliminate any tax on the deemed capital gain resulting from selling the house to me at less than FMV.  Is this correct?  Also, does the fact that my girlfriend will be contributing up to half of the down payment for the house impact the transaction in any way?
I really enjoy your website, keep up the great work! Cheers!

The Answer:

You are correct when you say that the consequences to your future father-in-law are the same no matter when you make the deal. No matter what his proceeds or “deemed” proceeds are, any gain on the sale of his house will be exempt from tax (see my previous post on the principal residence exemption).

So what was your friend alluding to? Section 69 of the Income Tax Act. Let’s say the property you were purchasing was not an exempt principal residence. Section 69 contains special provisions dealing with transactions between persons who are not dealing at arm’s length. The rules are somewhat punitive in nature because they make one-sided adjustments to the price.

If the price is less than fair market value, as in your case, then the deemed proceeds to the vendor are adjusted upwards to equal that value. However, the cost to the purchaser is not adjusted and remains whatever was paid. If the price is more than fair value, the proceeds are not adjusted downward, but the purchaser’s cost is reduced for tax purposes.

So, would these rules apply to you if the sale was made before you were married? Probably, yes. The rules apply to non-arm’s length transactions. People who are related are, by definition, not at arm’s length, so if you made the purchase after getting hitched, there would be an automatic non-arm’s length situation. However, there is also a rule that states that any two people may be deemed to be not dealing at arm’s length if the facts warrant it. In your case, the facts would seem to warrant it.

Finally, the fact that your future bride is putting in part of the money won’t make any difference, because there is only one principal residence allowed between spouses, so it really doesn’t matter who makes the claim in the end, when you finally pass the property on to your kids at a generous discount, right?


What’s Your Tax Issue? – Renting Out Your Home

The Tax Issue:

I live in Ontario and own a house.  I’m thinking about renting out the house (to supplement my income).  I bought the house in 1986 with my then-husband for $85,000, both of our names were on the deed.  We separated in 2006 with me remaining in the house; then divorced in 2008 at which time I ‘bought him out’ of the house resulting in the house being solely in my name.  The house is currently valued at approx. $260,000.  If I move out, rent it out, then decide to sell it within 1-5 years, how do I calculate the tax I would owe re capital gains?

The Answer:

Your question actually has three “tax events” happening so it’s a good exercise for a 2nd year tax student like me (as I was at the turn of the century 🙂 ).

First, you bought out your husband at the time of your divorce. I’m not sure about the circumstances, but the general rule here is that regardless of the actual price you paid, your husband’s share of the original cost became your cost for tax purposes unless, at the time, you both elected on your tax returns to apply the actual price you paid.

Second, at the time you decide to move out and rent the property, there is “change of use”, which would normally result in a deemed disposition at fair market value. Since the house is your principal residence, your gain is tax-exempt.

Third, once the change of use has occurred, any future increase in value might be taxable when you sell the house. There is a special election you can make under section 45(2) of the Income Tax Act that will allow you to avoid the change in use rules and treat the property as your principal residence for up to 4 years. In order to benefit from this concession, you cannot claim depreciation during the time you rent the property. If you sell the house within the 4-year limit after making the election, then the full amount of the gain will be exempt as a principal residence. However, if you sell after the four years, then the full amount of the increase in value from the time you moved out will be taxable as a capital gain.

What’s Your Tax Issue? – Principal Residence Exemption Form

The Tax Issue:

I sold my home in 2009 and I want to claim the exemption for a principal residence. If the full amount is exempt, must I fill out and file the designation form?

The Answer:

You’d be shocked at how often I get this question during tax time – that’s twice today so far! Let’s put it to rest once and for all. Briefly, the exemption provides relief from any tax on a gain on the sale of property if it was designated as your principal residence. First, your gain is calculated. Then you must determine the number of years that you occupied the property and wish to designate it as your principal residence.

In some cases, with multiple properties, it can get complicated, but in the simplest case, where you have sold your home and it was your only residence, then you will be designating all the years you owned the property, and your gain will be fully exempt.

In such a case, even though the law technically states that you must file a designation form T2091 to calculate the exemption, the CRA has stated that you don’t have to report the disposition and you don’t need to file the form as long as the full gain is exempt, and you did not make a capital gains exemption election on the property in 1994 (that’s a whole other blog – don’t ask 🙂 ). If you want to be super cautious, though, I would still file the form, because the CRA has been known to renege on their administrative concessions from time to time.

If you live in Quebec, although you don’t have to report a fully exempt sale of a principal residence on your tax return, you must still complete and file form TP-274 with your income tax return.  No administrative concession is given here.