If you plan to stay in Canada for 6 months or less each year, the government considers you a non-resident, which means that you can still open a bank account and buy property, etc. If you plan to live in Canada for more than 6 months per year, you must apply for immigrant status.
British Columbia has no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate in Canada.
When a non-resident sells Canadian real estate, he/she is required to pay the appropriate amount of taxes on any capital gain. The normal Canadian tax rates will be applied to 50% of the gain. However, a non-resident is required to pay an estimate of the tax before the sale, an amount equal to 25% of the gain. This amount is to be retained by the seller’s lawyer until such time as a clearance certificate is received from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in connection with the sale of the property. Upon payment, the CRA will issue a clearance certificate to the seller, but not until there has been a contract of purchase and sale with all subjects (conditions) removed. The wait for the certificate is usually 6-8 weeks. If the certificate is not obtained, the purchaser is required to withhold from the sale proceeds a percentage of the selling price (usually 25-50%).
The non-resident seller should file a Canadian income tax return for the year in which the sale occurs and should expect to receive a refund of a portion of the taxes paid. The taxation of Canadian real estate depends on whether the use of the property is for a principal residence, an active business or as a rental property. If it is used as a rental property, a 25% non-resident tax must be paid on the gross rent a tenant pays. However, if you use a professional property manager, the manager will, by law, withhold 25% of the gross rental revenue at source to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency. Then on or before March 31 of the following year, the property manager issues an NR4 form and you then have the right to file a Canadian tax return. The tax return is due before June 30 and enables you to claim expenses against that income and potentially request a refund.
Many countries, such as the U.S., have tax treaties with Canada that prevent you from being taxed in both Canada and your home country. It is advisable to contact a tax accountant in your country for more information.
Additional Costs and Fees When Buying and Selling Property
The following represents many of the additional costs and fees incorporated when buying property:
Non-residents of Canada pay tax on income received from sources in Canada. The type of tax paid, and the requirement to file income tax returns, depends on the type of income received.
Canada has tax treaties with many countries, including the United States and the UK. A tax treaty is designed to avoid double taxation for people who would otherwise pay tax on the same income in two countries.
Property Transfer (or Purchase) Tax/Land Transfer Fees are 1% of the first $200,000 of the value and 2% of the remainder.
Property Transfer Tax (PTT) is now exempt for individuals buying their first home as long as they meet certain criteria, namely that they are a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident and have never owned a home anywhere in the world; that they have lived in the province for at least one year prior to purchase; that they have filed two Canadian tax returns within the last six years; and that they must occupy the property as their principal residence for the first year of ownership. There are also proportional exemptions to PTT for first-time home buyers which vary by region based on the fair market value of the property.
Capital Gains Tax is not applicable on your principal residence.
Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is a combination of GST and PST and is used in British Columbia. The HST is collected by the Canada Revenue Agency, which then remits the appropriate amounts to the participating provinces. HST is applicable on most goods, services and consumer products including new homes. Rebates are given for the construction or purchase of most newly constructed or substantially renovated houses used as a primary place of residence. HST is also applicable to any costs and fees associated with the property purchase including legal/notary fees, realtor commissions, strata fees, residential heating fuel, commercial rents, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, repairs, cable TV, internet, electricity, gas, renovations, painting and other professional services.
Property Tax is an annual fee levied within local communities, which means there are many different rates within each province. The difference between Property Tax and Property Transfer Tax is that PTT is a one-time provincial tax which comes into effect upon transfer of property and Property Tax is paid annually to the local taxation authorities. It is determined by applying the value of the property as assessed by the provincial assessment authority to the current tax rates as stated by the local tax authority. The amount can differ each year, but generally Property Tax falls between 0.5-2.5% of the home’s market value.