Many of my clients are concerned about the new BC taxes coming this Fall that may affect their real estate in BC while they are living abroad or preparing to return. The "devil is in the details" as the saying goes...and few details have been released by the government. I am working proactively with clients to understand their context and how they may be impacted. For those considering buying real estate in BC this year, please refer to my "Buying Real Estate in Canada" page for both real estate strategy and guidance on taxation questions.
The incoming CRS is causing Canadians abroad lots of grief, as I hear from many of my clients. There is a reality to be careful of and fear to be wary of. Here is a summary of both, if you are being impacted by your bank requiring a tax ID from you for the first time.
The CRS requires all customers of major international banks to have a tax identification number (ID) registered with their accounts at their bank. This tax ID means that if you have been a "world citizen", you are no longer free of a tax residency.
If you have nothing to hide, which applies to the vast majority of Canadians living abroad, you have nothing to worry about. That said, the reality is that you must choose a tax residency if you bank with major international banks. If you choose your tax residency to be Canada, your Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) is your tax ID. If you give it to your international bank, then in principle, you are linked to the Canadian tax system.
Will you pay taxes in Canada?
Canada's tax system is based on whether you are resident in Canada or not - physically resident, or with strong ties to Canada. If you have been living abroad for many years, and have only very minor ties to Canada, you will not pay Canadian tax and the government of Canada will not come after you for money. So, if you want to not to be taxed in Canada, be careful that you keep very minor ties to Canada, or none at all!
Will the Canadian government come after your money, investments, and assets you have abroad?
Assuming you haven't been evading taxes in Canada, did not commit tax fraud, and/or are not under investigation for other potential crimes, you have no grounds for concern that the Canadian government will "come after your money". And no international bank will immediately start sending your full financial assets, income, and history to the Canadian government without signficant legal cause. Can you see why this would be a silly thing for them to do from a customer trust perspective?
Can I choose a different country for tax residency?
Whether you choose to have a tax residency in the country you are currently "residing" in, or choose to have one in a country which you have other ties to, you do not need your tax residency to be Canada, despite the fact that you are Canadian and have a Canadian passport.
I would like to start by acknowledging and honouring the real concern and fear that many Canadians abroad are feeling. You have worked hard internationally, have saved your money, have given up living in Canadian culture and having ties to Canada, and for all this, you want to not be taxed by Canada.
While there are a few real cases of the Canadian government coming after Canadians living abroad for taxes, these cases are, in my experience, not ones to concern yourself with. In each case of someone claiming foul to me, when I dug a bit deeper into their situation they either completely cut me off because I found their story wasn't fully truthful, or in more benign cases, they hadn't cut their major residential ties to Canada. One person even still filed taxes in Canada every year as if he was still there. No wonder he had to pay taxes...because he claimed he was residing in Canada. Ummm...do you see the problem, sir?
Fear is contagious, and some expats feed off sharing it to anyone who will listen. Don't listen. And likely better to not hang around with those people.
The CRS is an reporting rule that will affect many expat Canadians, particularly those who have been living as "world citizens" without a fixed tax residency. With careful planning, choosing your tax domicile to fit your needs (including the option of reporting Canada as your tax residency), and being careful to keep your physical residency somewhere other than Canada, you will not pay Canadian taxes.
If you are a Canadian citizen facing the CRS tax ID requirement for the first time and have a "clean" tax record, I would be pleased to help you get clarity on your situation vis a vis Canada, and help you understand what your options are. I have consulted with many clients on this question directly, have met with a top Canadian tax lawyer on this issue, and consulted with professionals in the banking and investment field in Canada and abroad to get clarity on the current rules and implementation of the CRS and how it affects Canadians living abroad.
Please engage my Professional support services if I can be of help.
Paul Kurucz, MBA
However, you must still practice "due diligence" and think for yourself. Recently Canadian bank employees have been coming forward to news media because they are not happy with how they must deal with customers. I spoke privately with a bank employee yesterday and the problems are real. If you are a returning Canadian, please empower yourself to make thoughtful decisions when you set up your banking and investments in Canada.
Find out why:
Professional support for your banking, investments, tax, logistics, timing, and lifestyle questions when moving back to Canada.
In years past, living abroad while owning real estate in Canada was pretty simple. As long as you didn't physically live in it yourself (except as a recreation property), all was good. Now, however, the rules are tightening up. If you sell, you must pay tax. If you rent, you must pay tax on the income. All reasonable requirements, to be sure, but more care must now be taken to ensure you are complying with all the rules.
Check out this example article:
This is from a huge banner headline on the Canada Revenue Agency web site. When I see such headlines I understand the concern these messages raise in Expat Canadians everywhere.
Not to worry: The first sentence after this headline can help you feel more secure: "Canada has one of the highest voluntary compliance rates in the world - most Canadians file and pay their taxes on time." Yes we do. Is it wise to understand and plan the financial and tax implications of moving back to Canada? Yes. Fear? No.
Read the full story on the CRA web site
This is a time of change and a time of concern in the United States as the country enters a new political Reality in 2017. Here are some considerations for Canadians currently living, working, and traveling in the United States. These considerations are based on the experience of helping hundreds of Canadians and their families move back to Canada, many of whom are mid-journey as you read this.
Please share your ideas, considerations, and concerns regarding the situation in the U.S. and your plans for the future. I will include them in this web site so other Canadians can benefit from them. Thank you on behalf of the thousands of Canadians who visit this web site every month!
If you are a dual-citizen, Canadian + another country, you will need a valid Canadian passport to fly back into Canada soon...
The full story
This is a very insightful read and well-worth the time for anyone moving back to Canada and to Toronto in particular.
It had to happen eventually, no? Most Canadians abroad have experienced being tracked on entry AND exit from countries they live in or visit. Canada has been an exception. You are only tracked on entry, not exit. But that is about to change...
In this blog posting on her site "The Expat Partner's Survival Guide", Clara Wiggins touches on some very important concerns. Being prepared for your move back to Canada psychologically is really important!
Check out our "Why move back to Canada?" section for more insights and real stories from returning Canadians!
(Globalnews.ca, April 13, 2016)
One of the puzzling things you hear is the mixed news about the economy in Canada. On one hand, if you have followed Canadian financial news over the last year, apparently Canada is in dire straits. But if you visit Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, and other bright spots in Canada, you can see and feel the real growth, energy, and positivity. Good stuff is happening! Why the difference between what is in the news and what you can see for yourself?
I, Paul Kurucz, the author of this article and this web site, can offer one possible perspective on this puzzling difference:
We are using old, outdated metrics to measure Canada's economic growth.
Computer models built by economists, investment analysts, bankers, and others are using variables such as oil prices to determine the *overall* health of the economy and in doing so, drive currency changes and news that this negative.
This is the 21st century.The biggest success stories in the stock markets are tech companies - idea factories and services - not old physical industries like oil. So here are some possible metrics to consider, and how Canada is doing with them:
Immigration - Positive. Bright people moving to Canada and making good things happen.
Education - Positive. Not just for Canadians, but huge numbers of international students bring billions of "clean" dollars to Canada. And the best and brightest? Many stay after they graduate and build Canada even more.
Tourism - Positive.
Housing - Positive. Yes, there is concern about over-heated real estate markets, but higher prices drivedevelopment, which drives jobs, which drives spending, which drives more jobs and government tax revenues, which drives...you get the idea.
Tech - Positive. I visited Toronto recently and was astonished by the vibrancy of the tech industry there and in surrounding areas such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Ottawa, and others. Wow! And Vancouver and Victoria are booming tech communities, too, quietly buliding economic depth in these "export" industries.
Film industry - Positive. Studios can't get space and people right now in Vancouver, there is so much business as Netflix, Amazon, and other studies race to build their in-house content inventory.
Leadership - Positive. Across Canada, at all levels of government and in many businesses, leadership is fresher, more positive, educated, and determined to make a difference. The "rose-coloured glasses" effect? Certainly a danger, but it is hard to ignore that things work really well in Canada - more so than any time in Canadian history - which is why so many people want to move here!
Deficits are a problem...in the long term. But who is the government of Canada borrowing from during this short to medium term transition in our economy? And where is the money being spent?
Great questions! Firstly, the world is awash in savings and particulary in Canada, retirement savings. So the money can largely be borrowed from ourselves. And where is it being spent? While not all government spending is on economic investment, much is. Infrastructure, for example. Another foundation of our economy.
All good news? No, but not as dark and bad as it is made out to be, perhaps.
I communicate with clients from around the world. In the end, Canada is relatively well off based almost every measurable metric. That is why we are the one place everyone wants to emigrate to! And in teaching international MBA students studying in Canada, I see and hear first-hand from them what it is like elsewhere and that they want to stay here after they graduate. The stories some of them share are humbling and a reminder of how lucky we are to be in Canada!
The top American city on the list? San Francisco: #28.
The world is voting with their feet, and bringing their North American real estate desires to Vancouver.
Photo credit: Coal Harbor Sunset, Flickr User: tdlucas5000
(But still important for returning Canadians!) The
long standing and well-known "B4" form, which is the list
you use to detail what you are bringing into Canada when you return, has a
new name! It is now a "BSF186" form. Now you know. May your
end of 2015 be more peaceful and joyful because of this news. ;-)
Details: CBSA Memorandum...
Leaving the U.S. to retire back to Canada? Some thoughts from Paul Kurucz in this New York Times article! .... read more.
What are the impacts on you, Dear Canadian Expatriate, on the major shifts happening in Canada right now, from a 25% drop in the Canadian dollar to jobs vanishing overnight in Alberta? A few considerations:
The drop in the Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. dollar is a boon for all you Canadians living in U.S. and considering a move back sooner or later. Now is a prime time to buy real estate in Canada, move investments into Canadian dollars, and even to consider moving back right now if you have significant liquid assets. You have just been handed a 25% profit, which is perhaps temporary given underlying economic woes in the U.S. which are not being openly talked about in U.S. media. Perhaps the U.S. dollar is artificially high, not the Canadian dollar low?
Oil prices and lower oil demand are huge factors that
affect the Canadian economy. They affect not only people in Alberta who
profit from the oil sector, but the royalties from oil sales contribute
to everyone's lifestyle through Federal government spending. The drop in
oil prices, combined with the drop in the Canadian dollar mentioned
above, are storms that are just now about to hit us. There is always a
bit of a lag between major economic changes and their impact on costs in
Canada. That lag has just about run its course: The rest of 2015 should
be very interesting!
What does this mean for you? Well, you will see lower gasonline prices across Canada, and you will also see some weird opportunities, like really cheap used and re-possessed pickup trucks in Alberta, sudden real estate price drops there, and lower fresh produce costs from Mexico, too, due to lower transportation costs.
But you will also see negative impacts, such as on the job market, government spending on "extras" such as the arts, and sudden jumps in prices of goods that importers pay in U.S. dollars for.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. The impact of the oil sector
woes will ripple across Canada. The mighty job creation machine
called Alberta has just ground to a halt. What now? Where do all
the young people go to get opporunities now that "Fort Mac" is closing
its job doors? And at the same time, immigration continues unabated,
putting further pressure on the job market.
If you have a specific career focus that you know is hiring in Canada, you are safe. If you are in a more vulnerable sector, care in when you return to Canada and extra care in where you choose to move to in Canada would make sense right now.
These are just three aspects of the Canadian economy going sideways right now. There are many others. Where the puzzle pieces land in the near future are anyone's guess. But for sure, we live in interesting times and an extra thoughtful approach to moving back to Canada makes sense right now.
"The federal government will start issuing open work permits to help the spouses of Canadians already living in the country but waiting for permanent residency, under a one-year pilot program launched today..."
Great news for many Canadian expats who marry abroad and wish to bring their spouses to Canada!
Full story on CBC's web site
1. Do you pay taxes when you bring money back Canada? (No!)
2. Will my household goods I bring back be taxed? (No!)
3. How do I stay a non-resident for tax purposes but still keep Canadian health care? (You can't)
Have more questions?
This web site has the answers for you!
Professional Support Services also available.
Photo: Creative Commons licenced: Flickr user Beatrice Murch, "Border Crossing", accessed April 22, 2014
If you are a part-time expat, moving between the U.S. and Canada, note that changes are afoot in tracking your border crossings. This will apply to not just "Snowbirds", but people who work and live on both sides fo the border and travel alot. While there are lots of potential visa options that can work for you, many people just move back and forth at will as tourists, trusting that their days on both sides of the border aren't really being counted. Apparently, now they will be:
Last November I posted a request for feedback on why a wave of people were suddenly moving back to Canada from Australia. The responses in the last couple of months can be summed up in one word:
Apparently, things are changing in Australia. These changes have been indicated to me as including the cost of living (prices in general), the economy, culture changes, government services, attitudes toward change itself, and more. The biggest single irritant has been the increase in prices. In the 10 years I have been running this service and web site, I have never heard such bitterness from Canadians anywhere. Even during the recent Greek and Italian economic crises, and the waves of emails I received from Canadians from there, I never heard from a single bitter and angry person.
Here are a few direct quotes indicating some of the challenges being faced in Australia (non-bitter facts):
- "Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live, and the costs of things like utilities and consumer goods have always been comparatively more expensive. This has implications for retirement. The cost of living in Victoria, BC is considerably better in comparison. On top of that I can buy a nice home outright from the sale of my house in Sydney. Heating your home in Australia is expensive as well - albeit the winters are mild and much shorter. The only thing I would honestly miss would be the cultural life in Sydney (music and the arts) which is very stimulating."
- "Just read the Australia news on Bloomberg.com and you'll know right away why people are returning from there. The resource sector (commodities) is taking a beating. Just look how the price of gold has dropped. "
- "Although Canada pay higher tax, all other sources that I have read indicate that the cost of living in Australia is much, much higher than in Canada."
Please comment on the changes taking place in Australia.
I am getting a relative flood of contacts from people in Australia wanting to move back to Canada. What's up, folks? Please share your thoughts on the seeming momentum back to Canada from Australia! What is causing it?
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In April of this year I posted a request for your feedback on why there is such a large wave of Canadians returning home this spring and summer.
1. The desire to be closer to loved ones. Either aging parents, children, or family in general:
"The reason I am moving home is because I am approaching 45 and my parents are getting older as well. I just can't stand being so far away from them and my sister as well."
"My dad passed away recently and so after 13 years I am looking to return to N Van to be close to my mum and brother."
2. Economic chaos in another part of the
"1. Canada presents a stable economic environment.
2. "In EU now the last 5 years all governments independant of position left center or right want to rob their people of all their economies and their social benefits."
3. Pensions and salaries are cut in half taxes raised to the max, if you own a house you pay more taxes than rent.
4. Politicians are interested only for their positions and their interest only.
5. The rich North EU dont care for the South EU. North hates the south and the oposite.
6. Unemployement in the young persons is the South EU is about 60%
7. Hate and differences arising from the second world war are revivid again in Europe..."
"In the recent years I've been thinking of returning to Canada mainly because of the kids, for their better opportunities. My feel is that it is hard to make the move with all the uncertainities ahead of us. With present economical situation [in Europe,] once we are off, there is not much way to return. Tough decision."
3. For retirement in Canada after living abroad.
4. Health care and the generally supportive Canadian culture and social support system.
5. To create a new life in Canada. This is generally the choice by younger returning Canadians, those born abroad, and/or those who marry a non-Canadian and want to start a life together in Canada. Canada is a place where many come to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
* Note that these results are simply anecdotal and not from a scientifically prepared study. As well, the implied ranking is only from communications I have received through this web site.
Please add your story! Contact me.
A large new wave of Canadians are returning home this spring
and summer. Not clear is why the sudden rush
to come back to Canada?
Why are your returning to Canada?
Here are some of the previous waves:
July 2008 - July 2009: A huge wave after the financial crash in the U.S.
Mid 2011 - mid 2012: Another wave, this time people who had stuck out the U.S. rough times until they were fed up waiting for a recovery. And as the U.S. crash impacted the rest of the world, large numbers of Canadians returned from further abroad. Finally, the European crisis caused a group of Canadians who were suffering financial distress in Europe to decide to return to Canada.
2013: A sudden new wave of returnees, as indicated by
large numbers of people contacting me and visiting this web site.
Why the sudden rush to return to Canada right now?
Why are you returning? Please let me know!
A free podcast you can listen to right now! "Sabrina Ziegler is an intercultural trainer who just returned to Vancouver, Canada after living in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany for the last eight years...."
Join the conversation, meet others moving back to Canada, get help, and share your story! Check out the Moving Back to Canada Facebook page:
Moving Back To Canada - Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MovingBackToCanada)
The Facebook page for Moving Back to Canada is a companion to this web site and can help you connect with others returning to Canada. Perhaps you will meet new friends moving to the same city in Canada as you are!
After going through the questions I have received from people who contact me through this web site, I came to a rather surprising conclusion: In the last 9 years, I have personally responded by email to over 500 people!
I was wondering why I seemed to be able to help 95% of recent queries - it was because I researched and answered so many questions!
I do this work on a volunteer basis - this is one of the ways I enjoy helping people. I have spent thousands of hours of my own time in research, emailing, building, and maintaining this web site...and it was worth it, because so many people have sent follow-up thank you emails, donated, and more recently, engaged my new advising service.
How long will it take me to get to 1000 email responses?
My guess is 5 years...
Apparently this is a historic event as it is the first time in history that average Canadian family net worth has exceeded that of American families. There are two articles worth exploring on this bit of news:
Time (U.S.): "The Average Canadian is Now Richer than the Average American" (July 17, 2012)
Globe and Mail (Canada): "Canadians are Richer than they Think" (June 30, 2012)
Implications: Two important variables: The strong Canadian dollar and average real estate values, which have not dropped, when their American counterparts have. Does this mean Canada has a stronger economy than the U.S.? Maybe, on a per-capita basis, but remember that Canada's economy is 1/10th the size of the American economy! So this may not be such a fair comparison...
There is a common myth that prevails among Canadians: Wealthy Americans have low taxes compared to wealthy Canadians and as a result, Americans are richer than we are.
Well, this myth is simply not true, particularly if you are in the upper middle class and higher income brackets in Canada.
I grew up with this story, I have heard it all my adult life, and I hear it from Canadians moving back to Canada.
A comparison of taxes for someone making $400,000 per year:
|Federal Taxes (2012 rates)||29% - $116,000||35% - $140,000|
If you are concerned about significant tax differences between Canada and United States impacting you, think again: Canada does not have an onerous tax system compared to the United States.
This is way too simple a comparison. There are lots of other variables that need to be taken into account. Overall taxes and financially driven lifestyle variables change by state and province.
If you have incentive to minimize your tax burden, do your math with the help of tax professionals, if required: Compare the taxes and costs of living in the particular American state and city you live in (or want to live in) with the specific province and city in Canada you live in (or want to live in). This will give you an accurate picture of what you are facing in terms of tax differences on not only your income, but your lifestyle (spending).
"A smooth and easy return to Canada!"
After requests for more professional support and personal attention to your returning to Canada situation, I am now offering an Advising and Consulting Service...
Is there a mass global migration happening? I am getting increasing numbers of contacts from people not just moving back to Canada, but seeking out Canada for the first time - trying to immigrate to Canada. Why might this be happening? Please let me know any thoughts you might have!
Are you returning to Canada from the UK or Australia? If yes, please let me know. I am building a dedicated area of the site for each of your places in order to address concerns specific to your experience. Please share any stories, insights, questions, and/or tips and I will include them in the content, with credit and thanks to you! Those that follow you back to Canada REALLY appreciate the practical and human nature of what you have to share!
Of particular note right now are lots of changes taking place legally. For example, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have announced a new border security agreement will be released in December 2011. This will undoubtedly affect returning Canadians.
On a regulation note, Ontario just tightened up their driver's license
"reciprocity", affecting those people returning from the U.S.
or other countries. While a straight exchange used to be possible, now
there are new requirements, such as having a letter from some U.S. states
on official letterhead showing proof of driving history, producing a driver's
insurance extract, etc. While these rules are undoubtedly well-intentioned
and will hopefully ensure that new drivers in Canada are safe drivers,
they do add another layer of complexity to those Canadians moving back
I suggest keeping an eye on the new border security agreement when it is released in December. It will be interesting. I will update the Moving Back To Canada web site to reflect upcoming changes as I learn about them. If you learn of something new that other returning Canadians might find useful, please contact me and share your findings, Your experiences, tips, and suggestions are greatly appreciated by all those moving back! I get between 100 and 200 people a day to the web site, so you are having a big impact.
About 6 weeks ago I posted a request to Canadians living in USA. I asked that you let me know your reasons for moving back to Canada so that I could understand the sudden surge in visitors to this web site and be able to offer the latest tips and insights for others. Generous messages came in often daily from across America and across a spectrum of personal life situations. A huge thank you to you for your generous sharing of your experiences, fears, and hopes!
A summary of what you shared:
A big thank you to all of you who responded and shared your reasons and stories! I hope this summary is of value to others considering moving back to Canada.
In recent history there has never been such a reversal: Americans coming to Canada to find work. It has always been the other way around.
Visits to this site from people moving back to Canada from the USA have skyrocketed in the last couple of months. July 25th saw the largest number of visitors in one day to this site.
If you live in the USA and are considering moving back, or are already returning to Canada, would you please send me a quick note as to why? I will post summary responses here for others.
Also, check out the new "Moving back to Canada from USA" resource page!
Yesterday I replied to a note from a Canadian expat who was interested
in my thoughts on Canadian university options for his daughter.
There were some more details to the request that helped me say the following, but what really surprised me was that I felt absolutely solid in saying it:
"Help your daughter be strategically far-sighted...The very near future is your daughter's world and the big opportunities for a safe and prosperous life will not be in North America....[I suggest she] learn Mandarin and get a degree in China. Or Portuguese and get an MBA in Brazil. Or an internship in India as part of a political science degree in Germany. Or ..."
Now, I am not saying Canada is not a wonderful, safe, and prosperous country - right now. But it does not take a genius to see that this will be China's century. And Brazil's. And India's. If you have a child who will reach their career peak in 20-30 years, might it make sense to prepare them now for where the best opportunities will be?
Full disclosure: I teach international marketing at a University in Canada, so I am both privy to some good data to back up my assertions and at the same time biased because of what I do. The university I teach at knows this stuff: They offer a combination UK MSc in International Business (delivered in Canada) with a Canadian MBA. Students? Mostly from China, India, South America, the Middle East, ...