Saturday, April 30, 2011

I am a Canadian citizen, but I am in the process of becoming a US citizen, too...

...As a dual citizen, who will I pay taxes to?

To resolve some of the complications its citizens create in moving back and forth, Canada and the US negotiated a Tax Treaty to prevent the double taxation of their citizens on the same income. As a result, the " Convention between the United States of America and Canada " (simply the Canada/US Tax Treaty) was negotiated and originally signed on September 26, 1980 . Since then, the Treaty has been revised four times - June 14, 1983 , March 28, 1984 , March 17, 1995 and July 29, 1997.

The Canada/US Tax Treaty "overrides" certain areas of the tax code in both Canada and the US to afford protection from, among other things, double taxation in both countries. An example may help. If you are residing in the US and you generate C$100 in Canadian interest from a bank account, Canada retains the right to tax this income as "Canadian source" income. However, as a US resident, you are required to declare your worldwide income on your US return, including the C$100 from Canada . Per the Canada/US Tax Treaty, the Revenue Agency takes a 10% withholding tax on the interest and the US taxes the interest at your ordinary income tax rate (assume 25% or U$25). In sum total, you have now paid more than C$35 (because of the US exchange rate on U$25) on C$100 of income. This is one of the issues the Canada/US Tax Treaty attempts to resolve.

The key provisions of the Treaty include:

Sharing Information
- To catch those who might evade taxation on income from one country while resident of the other, Canada and the US agreed to share their information with each other. In fact, the Treaty allows either taxing authority to ask for your complete tax file from the other country (electronic and otherwise). This means if you have income in Canada and you don't report it on your US return, your chance of getting caught has increased significantly. Based on our experience, it appears that real estate transactions, dividends, interest and in particular, government pension payments are exchanged electronically on a regular basis.

Foreign Tax Credits
- The IRS allows taxes paid to Canada as a foreign tax credit against that same income on the US return to avoid double taxation. For example, using our scenario above, you would take the C$10 you paid to Canada, convert it at the prevailing exchange rate and use it as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on the US return. The Treaty allows you to take the taxes paid to Canada and use them against any tax liability that same income generates on the US return.

Exempt Certain Income - The Treaty sorts out what income is taxed in which country as well as exempting certain income altogether. For example, it provides direction on where capital gains are taxed and exempts wages earned in Canada on the US return.

Withholding Taxes
- The Treaty specifies the various withholding rates for the various types of income sourced out of that country.