Posted on October 25th, 2023 in Domestic Tax

close-up of a rental sign in front an apartment building

In a March 30, 2023, Tax Court of Canada case, the taxpayer was assessed for failing to withhold taxes on rent paid on Canadian real estate to a non-resident. Penalties and interest were also assessed.

The information known to the taxpayer was limited to an Italian telephone number on the lease document (with a Canadian number), the landlord’s email address ending with “.it” rather than “.ca” or “.com” and some Italian writing at the bottom of an email. The taxpayer argued that he did not know that the landlord was a non-resident, and that a due diligence defence should apply.

Taxpayer loses

The Court first noted that a non-resident is subject to a 25% flat tax on gross rent received on Canadian property. The Canadian resident paying the rent is required to withhold and remit this tax and is liable for it if this is not done. Penalties and interest on this amount also apply.

The Court then noted that the withholding requirement exists regardless of whether or not the taxpayer knows that the landlord is non-resident. Further, there is no due diligence defence in respect of the tax withholding. As such, the taxpayer was liable for the tax not withheld.

The Court stated that a due diligence defence could apply to penalties and interest. However, the taxpayer provided no evidence of any efforts to confirm the landlord’s residency. The absence of any reason to question the landlord’s residency was insufficient – due diligence requires taking positive steps to ensure compliance.

ACTION: Ensure to take proactive steps to understand a landlord’s residency status. Renters can be liable for unremitted withholdings even if they do not know the landlord’s residency status.

Article originally published in: Tax Tips & Traps 2023 Third Quarter – Issue 143.

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