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Understanding the Tax Consequences of Emigrating from Canada

Planning to leave Canada? It's crucial to grasp the tax implications that accompany your departure. Our comprehensive guide delves into the rules surrounding deemed dispositions, exemptions, and elective dispositions. Learn how to navigate the tax landscape and manage your departure tax effectively when moving abroad.
Analysis by
Nitin Ashok, CPA, CFA
March 12, 2024 11:25 PM
min read
Tax Consequences When Emigrating from Canada
Table of Contents


    Emigrating from Canada is a significant life decision that comes with various financial and tax implications. One crucial aspect that individuals should be aware of is the tax consequences associated with their departure. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the key considerations and tax rules surrounding emigration from Canada, accompanied by real-life examples to illustrate the concepts.

    Deemed Disposition: A Taxation Reality

    When a taxpayer decides to leave Canada, the Canadian tax system mandates a deemed disposition of all their property owned at the time of departure. This means that, for tax purposes, the individual is treated as if they sold their assets at their current fair market value. While this may sound daunting, it's essential to understand which assets are subject to this rule and which are exempt.

    Exempted Property Categories

    Certain types of property are exempt from the deemed disposition rule. The major categories of exempted property include:

    1. Real Property: Real estate situated in Canada, including land and buildings.
    2. Business Property: Property of a business carried on in Canada through a permanent establishment, such as capital property and inventories.
    3. Excluded Rights or Interests: Specific rights or interests of the taxpayer as described in the tax regulations.

    Let's dive into real-life scenarios to see how these rules apply:

    Example 1: Publicly Traded Securities (Mr. John Smith)

    Mr. John Smith owns publicly traded securities with an adjusted cost base of $30,000 and a fair market value of $55,000 at the time of his departure from Canada. What are the tax consequences for these securities?

    Solution: Mr. Smith would face a deemed disposition of his securities at their fair market value, resulting in a taxable capital gain of $12,500 [(1/2)($55,000 - $30,000)].

    Example 2: Rental Property (Ms. Emily Adams)

    Ms. Emily Adams owns a rental property in Vancouver, B.C., with a capital cost of $200,000 and a fair market value of $310,000 at the time of her departure. What are the tax implications for this rental property?

    Solution: Real property is exempt from the deemed disposition rule upon departure. Therefore, there are no immediate tax consequences for the rental property. However, Ms. Adams would be liable for Canadian taxes on recapture and capital gains when she sells the property as a non-resident.

    The Challenge of Capital Gains on Departure

    One of the challenges individuals face when emigrating from Canada is the potential for accrued capital gains on their assets. In many countries, individuals can leave without incurring taxation on these gains. However, Canada's rules differ significantly.

    Double Taxation Concerns

    The deemed disposition can result in double taxation if the taxpayer's new country of residence does not recognize the adjusted cost base from Canada. Fortunately, the Canada/U.S. tax treaty provides a solution in such cases, allowing individuals to elect to have a deemed disposition at fair market value for both U.S. and Canadian tax purposes.

    Example 3: Canadian Private Company Shares and Rental Property (Ms. Sarah Turner)

    Ms. Sarah Turner owns shares in a Canadian private company and a rental property. She faces a deemed disposition on her departure. What are the tax consequences?

    Solution: Ms. Turner has a taxable capital gain on her shares and potential tax implications on her rental property. Her tax position depends on whether she elects for a deemed disposition on the rental property. The net income inclusion will vary accordingly.

    Elective Dispositions

    While some property is exempt from the deemed disposition rules, individuals may choose to override these exemptions in specific situations. This can be beneficial, especially when dealing with property that qualifies for special tax treatment.

    For example, farm property that qualifies for the lifetime capital gains deduction can benefit from an elective disposition at the time of departure.

    Security for Departure Tax

    Dealing with the tax liability resulting from the deemed disposition can be challenging, especially for individuals with substantial gains. To address this issue, the tax system allows taxpayers to provide security in lieu of paying the tax immediately. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) accepts various forms of security, including bank letters of guarantee, bank letters of credit, government bonds, shares in corporations, certificates in precious metals, and more. This provides individuals with flexibility in managing their departure tax obligations. Notably, there's an exemption for the first $100,000 in capital gains resulting from departure. This means that individuals are not required to provide security for this portion of their tax liability.


    Emigrating from Canada involves several tax considerations, primarily centered around the deemed disposition of assets upon departure. While this rule can lead to taxation on accrued capital gains, exemptions and elective dispositions provide individuals with options to manage their tax liabilities effectively.

    It's essential to seek professional tax advice when planning an international move to understand the specific implications of your departure and optimize your tax position accordingly. By doing so, you can make informed decisions and ensure a smooth transition to your new tax jurisdiction.

    If you’d like to learn more or looking for help moving abroad, please reach out to us at

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