How to File US Taxes in Canada as an Expat

August 24, 2021 | , | 6 minute read
Expat Tax Blog. Tax Tips for US Americans abroad.

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american expat living in canada taxes

It’s a fact that US citizens and Green Card Holders living abroad are obligated to report their worldwide income and file US taxes every year to the IRS. This also is true if you are filing US taxes in Canada as an expat.

In addition to filing a US tax return, you may be required to file a Canadian return. Both countries have established a few provisions for US expats in Canada, allowing them to prevent double taxation on their residents. Read on to learn more.

How US Expat Taxes are Affected When You Work in Canada

If you’re working and making a regular income, you’ll most likely be required to file and possibly pay taxes to the Canadian Revenue Agency. When you live and work in the country, your Social Security contributions will be altered, which could affect your eligibility for the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.

So it does not matter if you’re already filing and paying taxes to the Canadian government – because if you reach the US tax filing threshold, you’ll need to file a US tax return too.

Tax Rates for Canada

The 2021 tax rates you can expect as an American living abroad in Canada is the following:

Federal Tax Rates 2021:

– 15% on the first $49,020 of taxable income, plus

– 20.5% on the next $49,020 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over 49,020 up to $98,040), plus 

– 26% on the next $53,939 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $98,040 up to $151,978), plus 

– 29% on the next $64,533 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over 151,978 up to $216,511), plus

– 33% of taxable income over $216,511

Canada Revenue Agency

Important Tax Points

When it comes to sales tax, there’s three types:

  • Good Sales Tax (GST): 5% federal tax paid on most goods and services purchased
  • Provincial Sales Tax (PST): Varying from province to province, some items are taxed at a certain rate to purchases made
  • Harmonized Sales Tax (HST): A combination of provincial and federal taxes on goods and services in certain provinces

Depending on which province you live in, federal and provincial tax rates can be charged together under HST. Whereas, in other provinces, PST is charged separately.

Plus, if you’re a resident of a province since December 31, 2020, you’ll need to report this on your Canadian Tax Return for the CRA to calculate your taxes correctly.

If you live in Quebec, you’ll need to file an additional tax return to Revenue Quebec.

Who Becomes a Resident of Canada?

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, an individual’s residency status is considered “significant” or has other residential connections to the country.

What do significant ties mean?

  • Having a spouse or partner living in Canada
  • Owning a home in Canada
  • Having children or dependents who have Canadian citizenship or residency

What does having other residential connections mean?

  • Having an economic or social tie to Canada
  • Owning personal property in Canada
  • Having maintaining a Canadian or Canadian province/territory passport, driver’s license, or health insurance

183 Days Threshold

If you, as a US expat lived in Canada for 183 days or more, you may be qualified as a resident for tax purposes.

Foreign Income Taxes

If you are a US citizen and a resident living in Canada, you will be taxed on worldwide income. However, if you are a non-resident, you only need to report the income earned in Canada.

Canada’s Tax Year

Canada’s tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. This makes filing US expat taxes easy since you don’t need to owe the amount of your salary proportionate to the number of days you worked. This is also known as pro-rating your income.

Canada’s Tax Deadline

The deadline to file a Canadian tax form, called T1, is due April 30 of every year. If you are self-employed or own a business, you need to file by June 15 but pay any due tax by April 30.

Non-residents of Canada are granted an extension to file by June 30.

Filing US taxes as an expat goes hand in hand with filing Canadian taxes. You need to do both to be considered fully tax compliant. Make sure your US taxes and Canadian taxes are on time to avoid penalties!

Social Security

There is a Totalization Agreement between the US and Canada that helps expats who otherwise would pay social security taxes for both countries from the same earnings. If an agreement didn’t occur, it could have a dire effect on the individual’s retirement, survivor, or disability benefits.

As a US citizen living abroad, if you pay Canadian social security – known as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – you won’t need to pay US Social Security. Why? It mostly comes down to the type of circumstance you’re in with your employment.

It’s similar whether you’re a Canadian living in the United States. The Canadians will have income limits and won’t access their pension plans until 65 years of age.

how to file us taxes in canada as an expat

Pension Plan

US expats who want to access their Canadian pension plans, like Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan, can do so at age 65 and be subject to income limits.

  • The Old Age Security system provides monthly payments to Canadian residents 65 and older
  • The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) is similar to the US Social Security System in that both the employer and employee contributes to the plan. As of 2021, in Canada, employees pay 5.45% to at least 61,600 CAD in wages. Additionally, the CPP and QPP (Quebec Pension Plan) payments should NOT be included in total Foreign Taxes paid on a US tax return.


What are Canadian RRSPs and RRIFs?

RRIFs = Registered Retirement Income Funds

RRSPs = Registered Retirement Savings Plans

RRIFs and RRSPS are similar to the US 401(k) plans and IRAS. Expats who have one or both of these accounts qualify for automatic tax deferral, meaning you don’t need to pay any taxes on these plans until you get actual distributions from them. Form 8891 is no longer required to be included in your US tax return annually.

Yet, you will need to report all foreign financial assets to FinCEN or on our app if you meet the FBAR and FATCA requirements. If you do currently receive any investment income from these plans make sure you do report them in the year earned as normal interest, dividends, or capital gains on your US Tax Return.

Reporting Your Interest your RRSP

US taxpayers are not required to report their interest in the RRSP on Form 8891, Form 3520, or Form 3520-A. However, they will need to report their interest in FBAR and FATCA.

Ending Canadian Residency

If you plan to end your Canadian residency, it will be a taxable event – just like ending residency in the US.

As an American living in Canada, if you leave the country, you have to pay capital gains tax of any assets you liquidated within fair market value.

US Expat Tax Filing Requirements

As many of you know, the US tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. Filing is only a must if American expats reach the filing threshold, which we explain in our expat tax guide.

The most important tax deadlines for Americans abroad are the following:

  • April 15: Tax payment deadline if expats owe taxes
  • June 15: Filing deadline for tax returns and automatic extension for expats
  • October 15: Filing deadline if expats requested an extension, and is also the FBAR deadline (automatic extension)
  • December 15: The very last day of the tax season to submit your tax returns before the new year

Keep in mind that if your tax return deadline falls on a weekend or public holiday, it will be moved to the next business day.

US Expat Tax Benefits

While filing US taxes is a serious responsibility to uphold, the good that comes with it is the expat tax benefits one could take advantage of. Each benefit helps save money and helps avoid double taxation.

The Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) allows US citizens abroad to offset any Canadian taxes paid against US income taxes.

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion helps you to exclude up to $107,600 of foreign-sourced income from 2020 taxes.

The Foreign Housing Exclusion allows you to exclude specific household expenses that come from living abroad.

Not to mention, if you have children, there is the Child Tax Credit:

American families can receive $3,600 for each child aged five and under or $3,000 for each child aged six and over. These amounts apply to married couples who earn $150,000 or less; those couples who jointly make more than $150,000 but less than $400,000 can still qualify for the original $2,000 tax credit.

3 Tips for an American Family Abroad

Support for Filing US Expat Taxes in Canada

Need more help for filing US expat taxes in Canada as an expat? Please get in touch with our friendly, professional tax team with any questions you have. You can find our chat button in the left-hand corner. We’ll be happy to help!

Otherwise, get started on your US expat taxes today through our best-selling MyExpatTaxes expat tax software!

Written by Michelle H.

August 24, 2021 | , | 6 minute read

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