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Non-Resident Tax Reporting in Canada

Canada’s tax system is structured to ensure that all individuals, including non-residents, fulfill their tax obligations based on their income sources within the country. For non-residents, understanding the nuances of tax reporting and payment can be complex, given the different rules that apply. This blog aims to demystify the reporting requirements for non-residents on personal taxes in Canada, with a particular focus on the options available under Sections 216 and 217 of the Income Tax Act.

Understanding Non-Resident Status in Canada

Before diving into the specifics of Sections 216 and 217, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes non-resident status in Canada. Generally, you are considered a non-resident for tax purposes if you normally, customarily, or routinely live in another country and are not considered a resident of Canada; or you do not have significant residential ties in Canada, and you live outside Canada throughout the tax year, or you stay in Canada for less than 183 days in the tax year.

Section 216: A Closer Look at Rental and Timber Royalties Income

Non-residents who earn rental income from real or immovable property located in Canada or timber royalties face a unique set of reporting obligations. The default rule subjects this income to a 25% withholding tax on the gross amount paid to non-residents. However, Section 216 of the Income Tax Act offers a beneficial alternative, allowing non-residents to elect to be taxed on their net income after expenses, potentially reducing their tax liability.

Making the Section 216 Election

To take advantage of this election, non-residents must file a Canadian tax return under Part I for the taxation year in which the income was received, specifically indicating their choice to elect under Section 216. This election treats the non-resident as if they were a Canadian resident for the purposes of taxing this income, albeit with certain restrictions, such as the ineligibility for personal tax credits, except for the basic personal amount under certain conditions.

Deductible Expenses

One of the key benefits of electing under Section 216 is the ability to deduct certain expenses related to earning the rental or timber royalties income. These expenses can include property management fees, maintenance costs, property taxes, and mortgage interest, among others. Proper documentation and understanding of eligible expenses are crucial for maximizing the potential tax benefits.

Section 217: Broadening the Scope for Certain Types of Canadian-source Income

Section 217 of the Income Tax Act provides a broader opportunity for non-residents to elect to file a Canadian tax return on certain types of Canadian-source income. This includes, but is not limited to, old age security (OAS) pension, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits, most superannuation and pension benefits, registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) payments, and more.

Advantages of Electing Under Section 217

The primary advantage of making a Section 217 election is the potential to be taxed at a rate that could be more favorable than the standard non-resident withholding tax rate. This could result in a refund of some or all of the non-resident tax withheld if the calculated tax on the reported income is less than the tax already paid.

Filing Requirements and Considerations

To benefit from Section 217, non-residents must file a Canadian Income Tax and Benefit Return for the year, reporting all eligible Section 217 income. It’s important to note that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will only apply the election if it results in a lower tax liability than the non-resident withholding tax already paid. Therefore, careful calculation and consideration are necessary to determine the potential benefits of this election.

Reporting and Payment Deadlines

For both Section 216 and 217 elections, non-residents must adhere to specific deadlines. Generally, the return must be filed, and any tax due must be paid by April 30 of the year following the taxation year. Late filings and payments can result in interest and penalties, underscoring the importance of compliance.

Strategic Considerations and Potential Pitfalls

Non-residents should be aware of the potential pitfalls and strategic considerations when navigating Sections 216 and 217. For instance, the decision to elect under these sections should be informed by a thorough analysis of one’s individual tax situation, potential tax treaties between Canada and the non-resident’s country of residence, and the implications of such elections on their overall tax liability.


Navigating the Canadian tax system as a non-resident requires a nuanced understanding of the available options and obligations. Sections 216 and 217 of the Income Tax Act offer pathways that can significantly impact one’s tax obligations, potentially leading to reduced tax liability and refunds on overpaid taxes. However, the decision to elect under these sections should be made with careful consideration and, ideally, with the guidance of tax professionals or the CRA. By staying informed and compliant, non-residents can optimize their tax outcomes in Canada.

This information is for discussion purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. There is no guarantee or warrant of information on this site and it should be noted that rules and laws change regularly. You should consult a professional before considering implementing or taking any action based on information on this site. Call our team for a consultation before taking any action. ©2024 Shajani CPA.

Shajani CPA is a CPA Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer firm and provides Accountant, Bookkeeping, Tax Advice and Tax Planning service.

Nizam Shajani, Partner, LLM, CPA, CA, TEP, MBA

I enjoy formulating plans that help my clients meet their objectives. It's this sense of pride in service that facilitates client success which forms the culture of Shajani CPA.

Shajani Professional Accountants has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. We’re here to support you in all of your personal and business tax and other accounting needs.