How Long Do You Have to Live in a Property to Avoid Capital Gains Tax in Canada?

How Long Do You Have to Live in a Property to Avoid Capital Gains Tax Canada?
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Published By Jennifer Jewell

Question: How Long Do You Have to Live in a Property to Avoid Capital Gains Tax in Canada?

Answer: In Canada, you typically need to live in a property for at least one year to qualify for the primary residence exemption from capital gains tax. However, specific rules and eligibility criteria may apply, so it’s advisable to consult a tax professional.

How Long Do You Have to Live in a Property to Avoid Capital Gains Tax in Canada? Navigating Capital Gains Tax on Real Estate in Canada

Capital gains tax, often a topic of interest among real estate enthusiasts, is a tax levied on the profit you make when you sell an asset for more than you paid for it. In the realm of real estate, this typically applies to properties. When selling a home or piece of land, it’s vital to be aware of the implications of this tax, as it can significantly impact the amount of money you walk away with.

Question: How do I avoid capital gains tax on property in Canada?
Answer: To avoid capital gains tax on property in Canada, consider principal residence exemption, claiming capital losses, using tax-deferred accounts, incorporating your rental property business or seeking professional tax advice. Moving your earnings into registered accounts like RRSPs or TFSAs can shield them from capital gains tax.

The Principal Residence Exemption

Arguably the most talked-about aspect of capital gains tax in Canada’s real estate scene is the Principal Residence Exemption (PRE). The PRE essentially allows homeowners to avoid paying capital gains tax on the sale of their primary residence. However, the conditions surrounding this exemption are where things get particularly interesting.

To qualify for the PRE, the property must meet a ‘use test.’ This means the homeowner, their spouse or common-law partner, or their children must have lived in the house at some point during the year. Contrary to some misconceptions, there’s no set minimum time you must live in the property to qualify. However, the more years you designate a property as your principal residence, the larger the portion of the gain becomes exempt from tax. [ 1 ]

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Calculating Your Exemption: A Brief Overview

When it comes to determining how much of the capital gain is exempt from tax, you’ll need to take into account the number of years the property was your principal residence. For example, if you owned a property for ten years and it was your principal residence for seven of those years, 70% of the capital gain on the property’s sale would be exempt.

Moreover, an extra year, referred to as the "plus one" rule, is typically added to the number of years the property was your principal residence. This rule exists to account for situations where an individual might buy a new principal residence before selling their old one.

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Related Article: What is the Plus One Rule For Principal Residence?
Related Article: Who is Exempt From Property Taxes in Canada?

What About Rental Properties or Vacation Homes?

Now, while the PRE is an excellent boon for those selling their primary homes, what about those who are selling rental properties or vacation homes? These properties don’t qualify for the PRE as they aren’t the owner’s primary residence. However, if you ever change the use of your property (for instance, you move into a home that was previously a rental), you can use the PRE for the years it was your primary residence. But remember, designating one property as your principal residence for a particular year means you can’t use the PRE for a different property for that same year.

Implications of Not Declaring the Sale

In recent years, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has tightened its oversight of real estate transactions, primarily to catch dishonest or inaccurate declarations related to the PRE. Since 2016, homeowners are required to report the sale of their primary residence on their income tax return, even if they’re not paying any tax because of the PRE. Failing to report can result in penalties, and the CRA might also deny your PRE claim.

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In Closing: Making Informed Decisions

The ins and outs of capital gains tax on real estate in Canada, especially when it comes to the Principal Residence Exemption, can seem daunting. However, with a clear understanding of the rules and requirements, you can navigate the real estate market with confidence. Remember, when selling any property, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation, ensuring you make the most financially sound decisions for your future.



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