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Underused Housing Tax (UHT)

The Underused Housing Tax, introduced by the Canadian government, represents a strategic initiative aimed at mitigating the challenges of housing affordability and availability across the nation. With its inception on January 1, 2022, following the Royal Assent of the Underused Housing Tax Act on June 9, 2022, the UHT underscores a commitment to leveraging tax policy for social and economic objectives. This tax targets vacant or underutilized residential properties, with the dual goals of encouraging the optimal use of housing stock and increasing the supply of homes available to Canadians. As we move into 2023, it’s imperative for property owners and stakeholders to grasp the updated rules and exemptions to navigate this landscape effectively.

Background and Rationale

Canada’s housing market has experienced significant pressures, with rising prices and low vacancy rates highlighting the need for innovative solutions. The UHT emerges as a response to these challenges, aiming to disincentivize the underuse of residential properties in a context where housing affordability has become a pressing concern for many Canadians. By imposing a tax on vacant or underutilized homes, the government seeks to encourage owners to either sell or rent out their properties, thereby contributing to the alleviation of housing shortages.

Implementation and Scope

The UHT applies to residential properties across Canada, with specific focus on urban centers where the mismatch between housing supply and demand is most acute. The tax is levied on the owners of properties that are vacant or underutilized as of December 31 of a given tax year, with a rate set to motivate compliance and participation in the housing market.

Detailed Exemptions for 2023

Understanding the exemptions is crucial for property owners to ensure they are not unjustly penalized. The exemptions for 2023 have been refined to address various scenarios:

  • Primary Place of Residence:This exemption is critical for homeowners. If a property serves as the primary residence of the owner, their spouse, or common-law partner, or is used by their child for educational purposes, it is exempt from the UHT. This provision recognizes the importance of supporting families and education.
  • New Residential Properties:To encourage the development of new housing, properties that are newly constructed and held as inventory by the builder or developer, and have not yet been occupied, are exempt. This exemption aims to support the housing construction sector and ensure that new homes are not penalized before they enter the market.
  • Uninhabitable Properties:Recognizing that some properties cannot be occupied due to reasons beyond the owner’s control, such as disasters, unsafe conditions, or ongoing renovations, these properties are exempt if uninhabitable for at least 60 consecutive days. This exemption underscores the importance of safety and the practical challenges of making properties habitable.
  • Qualifying Occupancy:Properties that are rented out to eligible occupants under written agreements for periods of at least one month, or occupied by family members of the owner, qualify for an exemption. This provision encourages the rental of properties, contributing to the availability of rental housing.
  • Record Keeping:The emphasis on record-keeping is a critical aspect of compliance. Property owners are required to maintain detailed records for six years to substantiate their exemption claims. This requirement ensures transparency and accountability in the application of the UHT.

Compliance and Penalties

Compliance with the UHT involves not only understanding the exemptions but also adhering to the declaration requirements. Property owners must file a declaration using form UHT-2900, the Underused Housing Tax and Election Form, even if their property is exempt for a given tax year. The penalties for non-compliance are substantial, with a minimum penalty of $5,000 for individual owners and $10,000 for corporate owners. These penalties underscore the government’s commitment to enforcing the UHT and ensuring that property owners take their obligations seriously.

Broader Implications and Conclusion

The UHT is more than a tax measure; it is a policy tool designed to influence the housing market and address broader social and economic issues. By encouraging the optimal use of residential properties, the UHT aims to increase the supply of available housing, thereby contributing to the affordability and accessibility of homes for Canadians. As the rules and exemptions for the tax have been revised for 2023, all residential property owners in Canada must stay informed about their obligations and the opportunities to benefit from exemptions. The UHT represents a significant step by the Canadian government to address housing underutilization across the country, and its success will depend on the cooperation and compliance of property owners nationwide.

In conclusion, the Underused Housing Tax is a landmark initiative in Canada’s approach to housing policy. By addressing the issue of vacant and underutilized properties, the government aims to make more homes available to Canadians, thereby alleviating some of the pressures on the housing market. For property owners, understanding the nuances of the UHT, including the exemptions and compliance requirements for 2023, is essential. As we navigate these regulations, the collective effort of homeowners, the government, and stakeholders will be crucial in shaping a more inclusive and accessible housing landscape 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.