The federal government is proposing to relieve certain taxpayers who own residential property through a trust, corporation or partnership from the requirement to file an underused housing tax (UHT) return and to significantly cut the penalties associated with the failure to file a UHT return.
The announcement was made in the government’s fall economic statement tabled on Tuesday.
The UHT is an annual 1% tax on the ownership of vacant or underused housing in Canada, effective in 2022 and subsequent years.
However, the Canada Revenue Agency has twice extended the deadline to file a UHT return for 2022 without incurring penalties or interest, to give taxpayers more time to become compliant.
Currently, if a Canadian owns a property through a trust, private corporation or partnership, they generally have an obligation to file a UHT return. If the trust, corporation or partnership is substantially or entirely Canadian they may qualify for an exemption from the UHT as a “specified” Canadian corporation, Canadian partnership or Canadian trust.
In the fall economic statement, the government is proposing to expand the definition of “excluded owner” — a taxpayer who doesn’t have an obligation to file a UHT return — to include these specified Canadian corporations, partnerships or trusts.
The proposed change would be effective for 2023 and subsequent years.
The federal government is also proposing to reduce penalties associated with the failure to file a UHT return to $1,000 for individuals from $5,000 currently, and to $2,000 for a corporation from $10,000.
The proposed change would be effective for 2022 and subsequent years.
The government is proposing additional technical changes to the UHT, including providing that “condominiumized” apartment buildings not be considered residential property for UHT purposes, effective for 2022 and subsequent years.
The government said it would release draft legislative and regulatory proposals for these changes for consultation ending Jan. 3, 2024, with a view to bringing forward legislation afterward.
The changes are being proposed “in response to suggestions from Canadians about the implementation of the UHT,” the government said, and would help “facilitate compliance, while ensuring the tax continues to apply as intended.”
The government first announced a national, annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate considered to be underused or vacant in Budget 2021.