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Tax Filing Obligations for Canadian Residents Working Outside of Canada

A Canadian tax resident is obligated to file a Canadian Income Tax and Benefit Return every year, reporting worldwide income, which includes all sources of income both from within Canada and abroad. This requirement is based on the principle that residents of Canada are taxed on their global income. The taxability of foreign income and the potential for foreign tax credits are influenced by Canada’s tax treaties with other countries, which aim to avoid double taxation.

For employment income earned outside of Canada, the individual may be eligible for a foreign tax credit (FTC) under subsection 126(1) of the Income Tax Act. This credit is designed to offset Canadian tax on foreign income or profits tax paid by the taxpayer for the year. The FTC can be claimed for foreign non-business-income taxes paid to the government of a country other than Canada. The amount of the FTC is subject to limitations and is calculated based on the proportion of the tax otherwise payable under the Act by the taxpayer that relates to the foreign income.

Tax treaties between Canada and other countries can affect how foreign income and taxes paid are reported and taxed. These treaties are intended to prevent double taxation and may provide specific rules on the taxation of different types of income. If a tax treaty applies, it may define residency and determine which country has the right to tax certain income, potentially altering the taxpayer’s obligations under Canadian law.

Understanding Worldwide Income Taxation

Canada’s tax system is based on residency, not citizenship. This means that Canadian tax residents are required to report and pay taxes on their global income, which includes all money earned, whether within Canada or abroad. This principle ensures that residents contribute their fair share to the Canadian economy, regardless of where their income originates.

The process begins with determining tax residency. Generally, you are considered a tax resident if you maintain significant residential ties to Canada, such as a home, a spouse or common-law partner, and dependents in Canada. Once residency is established, the obligation to report worldwide income kicks in.

The Mechanics of Foreign Tax Credits (FTC)

To mitigate the burden of being taxed twice on the same income—once by the country where the income was earned and again by Canada—the Canadian tax system allows for the claiming of foreign tax credits. The FTC is a crucial tool for Canadian residents to avoid double taxation on their foreign employment income.

Calculating the FTC involves determining the amount of tax paid to a foreign government and applying it against the Canadian tax owed on the same income. However, the credit is limited to the lesser of the actual foreign tax paid or the amount of Canadian tax attributable to the foreign income. This ensures that the credit does not exceed the Canadian tax liability on the foreign income.

The Role of Tax Treaties

Canada has tax treaties with many countries, designed to prevent double taxation and fiscal evasion. These treaties outline which country has the taxing rights over certain types of income and may provide reduced tax rates or exemptions for specific income types.

For Canadian residents with foreign employment income, understanding the relevant tax treaty is essential. The treaty may stipulate that the income is only taxable in Canada, only in the foreign country, or taxable in both with a mechanism (like the FTC) to avoid double taxation. The specifics of the treaty can significantly impact how income is reported and taxed in Canada.

Practical Considerations

  1. Reporting Foreign Income: On the Canadian tax return, foreign employment income is reported in Canadian dollars, requiring conversion from the currency in which it was earned. The Bank of Canada’s average annual exchange rate is typically used for this conversion.
  2. Documentation: Keeping detailed records of foreign earned income and taxes paid is crucial. This includes payslips, bank statements, tax returns filed in the foreign country, and receipts for taxes paid. These documents support claims for foreign tax credits and may be required by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for verification.
  3. Deadlines and Penalties: The deadline for filing a Canadian tax return is April 30th for most individuals. Failing to report foreign income can result in penalties and interest on any unpaid taxes. The Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) may offer a way to correct omissions or inaccuracies in past tax returns with potential relief from penalties.
  4. Professional Advice: Given the complexity of tax laws and treaties, consulting with a tax professional who has expertise in international taxation can be invaluable. They can provide personalized advice, ensuring compliance and optimizing tax outcomes.


For Canadian tax residents with employment income from outside Canada, understanding and fulfilling tax obligations is crucial. This involves reporting worldwide income, utilizing foreign tax credits to avoid double taxation, and navigating the intricacies of international tax treaties. By staying informed and seeking professional guidance when necessary, Canadian residents can navigate their tax obligations confidently and efficiently.


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.