Managing taxes in Canada as an expat

Canada is a great option for working abroad. To make the most of their overseas experience, migrant workers must understand Canada’s distinctive tax regime. Here is a look at managing taxes effectively while living and working in Canada as a foreign worker.

Tax liability and eligibility

The tax system in Canada involves self-assessment. It requires each taxpayer to determine their taxable income and tax liability. Migrant workers and others must identify which tax heads apply to them and file income tax returns accordingly. Canadian citizens are taxed on their worldwide incomes in Canada. Foreign individuals living in Canada for 183 days or more per year must pay taxes in Canada. Expatriates only have to pay taxes on their Canada-sourced income. In other words, salaried foreign professionals on work permits must pay taxes in Canada only on the income they earn in Canada.

Most migrants in Canada work hard to send money online as remittances to their families back in their home countries. However, some migrants are fortunate enough to live in Canada with their families. Unlike some countries, Canadian law does not allow couples to file their tax returns jointly. For ex-pat families where both spouses work, they must file taxes individually. Furthermore, ex-pats must have Canadian Social Insurance Numbers are given by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to file their income tax returns.

Canada

Federal income tax

The CRA is the government body that regulates federal and provincial taxes for all provinces except Québec. The CRA has established 5 taxable annual income bands:

  • CAD 1 to 48,535 taxed at 15%
  • CAD 48,536 to 97,069 taxed at 20.5%
  • CAD 97,070 to 150,473 taxed at 26%
  • CAD 150,474 to 214,638 taxed at 29%
  • CAD 214,639 and above taxed at 33%

December 31 of every year is considered the year-end for taxation purposes. Taxpayers must file returns by April 30 of the following year. The law does not allow for the extension of the deadline. Late filing attracts penalties depending on the size of income and the amount of delay.

Provincial taxes

Residents must also pay provincial taxes in Canada. As the name suggests, these taxes are defined by the provinces and territories. Each has different tax brackets. Provincial systems consider the taxable income as reported to the CRA and apply their own taxation rates. These can range between 4-21%. Expats can check provincial tax rates by visiting the official websites of CRA or the Government of Canada. For all provinces except Québec, the CRA administers provincial as well as federal taxes. If the source of income cannot be clearly allocated to any province, nonresidents are liable to pay an additional 48% federal tax.

Capital gains

Capital gains consist of profits from the sale of personal property and real estate investments. They also include profits earned from stock investments on Canadian Securities Exchanges. As per Canadian tax law, 50% of a person’s capital gains earned during a tax year are taxable income. Canada does not have a separate tax structure for capital gains. Federal and provincial tax rates apply to the entire taxable amount, including capital gains. At the other end of the equation, Canadian law does not allow for capital losses to reduce taxable income.

Double tax relief

The Government of Canada has double tax treaties with more than 90 countries. These treaties prevent foreigners working in Canada from paying taxes on the same income in both countries. Expats must check if Canada has a double taxation treaty with their home countries. This is one of the first things to do after migrating to Canada.

Deductions and tax benefits

The CRA allows for some deductions in the taxable incomes of foreign residents. non-reimbursed business travel costs are exempt. Expenses of traveling salespersons are deductible. Any contributions to private retirement savings plans known as ‘Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) are also deductible. The maximum annual deduction a foreigner can enjoy from RRSPs’ contributions is 18% of the annual income or CAD 27,830, whichever is lower.

Expats can invest in Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Earnings on TFSA investments are completely tax-free. The maximum annual contribution allowed in TFSAs is CAD 5,500. Investments in Canada Pension Plan and towards Employment Insurance are deductible too. 15% of these plans’ annual investments can be deducted from the federal and provincial income taxes.

About the author:

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.

Janet Mason

Total internet practitioner. Organizer. Travel trailblazer. Tv junkie. Entrepreneur. Avid twitter nerd. Amateur coffee fanatic. Spent 2001-2006 promoting circus clowns in New York, NY. Was quite successful at getting my feet wet with shaving cream in Miami, FL. What gets me going now is exporting fried chicken in Las Vegas, NV. Enthusiastic about developing sausage in the government sector. At the moment I'm building foreign currency in Tampa, FL. Spent 2001-2008 lecturing about Easter candy in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

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