Tenants don’t have to foot unpaid tax bills for foreign landlords: minister

Click to play video: 'CRA’s handling of bare trust reporting rules needs ‘systemic review,’ MP says'
CRA’s handling of bare trust reporting rules needs ‘systemic review,’ MP says
The Canada Revenue Agency continues to face criticism over its decision to retract its requirement for Canadians to report bare trusts for this tax year, and now a Conservative MP wants a 'systemic review' of the handling of the issue. As Sean Previl reports, the MP's call is not the only one the ombudsperson has received and it's looking into the issue, though it won't say if a review will happen. – Apr 9, 2024

The Canada Revenue Agency will not go after tenants for tax owed by their landlords living out of the country, according to a statement from the minister of national revenue.

The clarification comes after confusion swirled online this week about whether a tenant is responsible for withholding taxes paid on rent to their landlord, if the property is owned by someone outside Canada.

“I want to reassure Canadians that the Canada Revenue Agency does not intend to collect any portion of any non-resident landlords’ unpaid taxes from individual tenants,” read a statement released by Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on X, formerly known as Twitter, Friday afternoon.

“It is incorrect to state otherwise.”

Assertions that renters could be responsible for their landlords’ unpaid taxes, or that a tenant should withhold 25 per cent of their rent upfront and remit the taxes directly to the CRA, came in response to a Tax Court of Canada ruling last year.

Story continues below advertisement

Bibeau called the case (3792391 Canada Inc. v. The King) “an extremely rare situation.”

Financial news and insights delivered to your email every Saturday.

The case law and its possible implications for renters were first reported on widely by The Globe and Mail last month. That article described a Montreal man ordered to pay six years’ worth of unpaid taxes plus interest on behalf of his landlord, a decision that was held up in the tax court.

This past week, debate over the legitimacy of the law and of putting the onus on tenants to remit taxes for their foreign landlords took off online.

But Bibeau said the law in question “has existed for nearly a century, and there is not a single instance of an assessment made to an individual tenant in the last decade.”

In a statement to Global News on Friday, the CRA affirmed it “does not expect tenants to withhold 25% of the rent from their landlords.”

“In most situations involving rental income, the CRA’s practice is to engage with the landlord rather than the tenant,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Click to play video: 'How your tax returns could be affected by CRA’s bare trust debacle'
How your tax returns could be affected by CRA’s bare trust debacle

The CRA added that “to ensure tax fairness,” the CRA would engage directly with a tenant “where there is a business relationship between the tenant and the landlord,” adding that those are “exceptional and rare circumstances.”

Story continues below advertisement

“We understand that it is important for people to feel safe in their homes and this government will continue to ensure that the tax system is both fair and efficient for all Canadians,” the statement concluded.

Global News asked the CRA in another email if it could provide examples of those business relationships but has not received a response.

Bibeau said in her statement that she would work with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland “to provide absolute clarity on the law and to ensure that tenants have the certainty they need and deserve.”

“But I can assure Canadians that it does not, and will not, apply to them,” she said.

– with files from Global News’ Uday Rana

Sponsored content