The Future of FATCA in Canada: Pros and Cons of the IGA

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, more commonly known as FATCA, was passed in 2010. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions (“FI”s) to report on the account information of U.S. citizens and residents (including dual citizens) to the IRS starting in July 2014.

Although the requirement to report directly to the IRS violated Canadian privacy laws, there were withholding tax consequences for non-compliance with FATCA. The uproar in Canada over the privacy issue and the financial costs of implementing FATCA led to the signing of an intergovernmental agreement [“IGA”] between Canada and the U.S. on February 5, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Secret is Out – How Many Days Have You Spent in the US?

We have written a number of blogs on the topic of how many days you can spend in the US, but come June 30, 2014 a new initiative will be kicked into high gear in order to track your movement across the Canada/US border.

Snowbirds have tried to get around this issue by pleading ignorance or simply believing that the US had no way of actually knowing how many days they were present within their borders, and maybe they were right. Under today’s system, both Canada and the US keep track of the day you enter the country, but not when you leave and neither country is in the habit of sharing this information with each other. However, none of this actually means that snowbirds are exempt from the rules. In fact, the implications of surpassing the number of days allowed in the US comes with dyer tax, estate, immigration and medical coverage issues. These issues have all been discussed in great detail in the past, however it is worth taking a brief moment to recap the rules. Read the rest of this entry » – Tax benefits of an estate freeze

David A. Altro and Jonah Z. Spiegelman recently co-authored an article which appeared on and is scheduled to appear in the March or April 2014 edition of Advisor’s Edge magazine. In the article, David and Jonah explain the tax benefits of an estate freeze, which is a follow up piece on David’s recent article titled The complicated landscape of US estate tax, already published in Advisor’s Edge. Click here to view the article online or scroll down to read the piece on our blog. Read the rest of this entry »

FATCA Update

Over the past two years and even more so in the past several months, a popular topic of discussion among tax professionals has been FATCA – the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

As the US has determined that finding US persons living outside the US for taxation purposes is a priority, new legislation has been put forward to complement the reporting of Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (TD D 90-22.1), commonly referred to as “FBAR.” This new legislation comes in the form of FATCA. Read the rest of this entry »

The Far Reach of FATCA

I spent five glorious months of my law school career on exchange in L.A. I loved living in California: when the “winter” came, I couldn’t believe how warm it was. I drove to class every day with my sunroof open and palm trees gracing the sky above me. I got myself a cute little apartment in West Hollywood and a California driver’s licence so I could get my car insured. I still carry the licence around with me in my wallet as a memento of that sunny time; it has my West Hollywood address on it, and I look tanned and happy. I also spend as much time as possible in L.A. each year visiting friends and reliving my glory days as a student.

Little did I know that my shallow American roots might one day be the cause of decidedly un-sunny times. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, more commonly known as FATCA, a U.S. tax law passed in 2010, is now making a big splash in the news. The law requires all foreign financial institutions, including banks, to report on the account information of “U.S. persons” to the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) starting in July 2014. One of the major issues with FATCA, whose primary aim is to curb tax evasion through the use of accounts held by U.S. persons at financial institutions outside the U.S., is the IRS’s definition of “U.S. person.” Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Florida Land Trust the Right Plan for Canadians?

The Florida Land Trust is sometimes recommended for Americans to hold title of their personal use U.S. real property. It is relatively inexpensive to set up, it is an effective way of avoiding probate on the assets inside the trust and it may also avoid incapacity issues if properly set up. We have been seeing the Florida Land Trust as a recommendation for Canadians owning U.S. real property. Although the benefits previously listed apply to Canadians as well, there are some major pitfalls to Canadians owning their U.S. real estate in Florida Land Trusts. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian Income Splitting and Issues for Americans

On October 1, 2013, the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) increased the prescribed interest rate to 2%. This change clearly affects Canadians looking to use prescribed rate loans as a strategy for income splitting, but prescribed rate loans used for income splitting purposes can also affect US citizens, US residents and even green card holders (collectively referred to as “US persons”). Before we jump too far ahead, let us take a moment to understand the income splitting strategy as it is used here in Canada.

One of the many differences between the Canadian and US tax systems is that, in the US, spouses can file a joint tax return, but in Canada, spouses are forced to declare their own personal income by filing separate tax returns. The net result (putting tax rates aside) is that a married couple will pay more tax in Canada than they would in the US. A common solution to this problem is the strategy of income splitting, which attempts to allocate income from a spouse taxed in a high tax bracket to members of that spouse’s family who are taxed at lower marginal rates. Read the rest of this entry »

US Government Shutdown – What it Means for Canadians

As of 12 am October 1, 2013, the US government “shutdown” due to a lack of budget. It is the role of Congress to prepare and pass a spending bill, also known as a budget, prior to the start of each fiscal year. The US government’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th, hence the seemingly odd timing of today’s shutdown.

Without a budget, spending on non-essential services comes to a halt. In practical terms, 3.3 million US government workers will continue to work today, though some without pay, while another 800,000 in non-essential roles have been immediately furloughed. Read the rest of this entry »

US taxpayers with RRSPs? File now to avoid penalties!

As cross border tax advisors, we routinely meet with American citizens who have lived in Canada for many years without understanding their tax obligations in the US. A similarly complex situation may arise for Canadian citizens who have moved to the US for work or retirement. Even those who are compliant with the income tax filings are sometimes surprised at the reporting that is required to maintain full compliance with US income tax laws. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the LLC Debate to Rest

Canadians are still running to the US in hopes of yielding a higher rate of return by investing their hard earned money across the border. Many of these investments include US real estate, whether it is a multitude of rental properties, one for personal use by the family or simply for retirement. No matter what your reason for wanting to get involved in the US real estate market the same question is always asked, how should you hold title to this US property? Read the rest of this entry »