Sylvain Moreau
Partner | FCPA, FCGA, Pl. Fin., D. Fisc., TEP | Tax

It is generally known that the accrued gain on your principal residence is not taxable.

Without necessarily getting into the details, an individual who sells his residence knows that he is not required to report anything in his tax return and generally has no tax to pay.

If, however, you have more than one residence where each can be designated as a principal residence, a prescribed form (T2091) must be prepared to establish the portion of the gain that could be taxable. It’s not always necessary to send this form to the tax authorities. To address this lack of information and control, with very little fanfare, the federal tax authorities have introduced new rules for improving observation and administration of the tax system in this regard. Since there’s a risk of changes and certain surprises for taxpayers who do not follow these, it’s worth looking at them.

New obligations

Gone are the days when you could sell your residence without notifying the tax authorities. According to the new provisions, you will have to comply with disclosure obligations (starting with your 2016 tax return), if you disposed of your residence since January 1, 2016. To the extent that you lived in your residence for each of the years where you were the owner, the gain could be totally exempt and no tax be required. Up to here, nothing has changed.

However, you will henceforth have to report the acquisition year, the sale price and a description of the property. This means that if you have more than one dwelling and the property sold cannot be designated as your principal residence for each of the years you owned it, you will have to complete the prescribed form (T2091) to calculate the tax-free and taxable portions.

Don’t forget to declare the sale, otherwise…

Unless you declare the sale of your residence during the year, you will not be able to benefit from the exemption for a principal residence, such that the profit realized (called capital gain) will be taxable.

If you forget to declare the disposition and to designate it as a principal residence in the year of the sale, it would be in your best interest to ask the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to modify your income tax return and pay a penalty for late filing. This penalty will correspond to the lesser of the following two amounts:

  • $100 per late month calculated since the filing deadline;
  • $8,000.

Furthermore, individuals who have not reported the sale could be in for another surprise. The period during which the CRA can issue a new assessment (which is currently three years) will be indefinitely extended. The tax authorities will therefore have all the time needed to find delinquent taxpayers.

Tips

  • Make sure you comply with the new disclosures in order to benefit from the exemption for a principal residence;
  • If you forget to declare your principal residence, notify the tax authorities and pay the penalty applicable. It could be less costly than the capital gains tax;
  • Remember: keeping track of the cost of your property and related improvements will help reduce your tax bill;
  • New rules have also been provided if you’re a non-resident of Canada or if you hold a residence in a personal trust;
  • Consult a tax professional to avoid unpleasant surprises.

06 Jan 2017  |  Written by :

Sylvain Moreau is a partner at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is an expert in taxation for the...

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