Fifth Protocol to the Canada-US Income Tax Treaty

The Fifth Protocol to the Canada-US Income Tax Convention (also known as the Canada-US Income Tax Treaty) was signed in 2007 and ratified by the U.S. Senate the following year, making significant changes to the then existing treaty.

This article will briefly explain some of the major Fifth Protocol (“Protocol”) changes to the US-Canada Income Tax Treaty (“Treaty”). It is not intended to constitute tax or legal advice, and it does not cover every change to the Treaty.

Cross-border taxation can involve many complex tax and legal issues, so you are advised to seek an experienced attorney in these matters. Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC can assist you in all of your tax and legal needs, and help you avoid making costly mistakes.

Treaty Article XI- Withholdings on Interest

One substantial change to the Canada-US Tax treaty was the elimination of withholding tax on cross-border interest payments to unrelated parties. According to the Protocol, “[I]nterest means income from debt-claims of every kind, whether or not secured by mortgage, and whether or not carrying a right to participate in the debtor’s profits, and in particular, income from government securities and income from bonds or debentures, including premiums or prizes attaching to such securities, bonds or debentures, as well as income assimilated to income from money lent by the taxation laws of the Contracting State in which the income arises.” It should be noted however that “interest” under this definition does not include dividends.

Taxpayer Migration – Protection Against Double Taxation

Under the previous rule, the US and Canada were allowed to tax residents on all of their capital gains without any provisions made for the fact that a country may have leveled a pre-departure tax on emigrants. The Protocol addressed this concern by allowing such individuals to “[E]lect to be treated for the purposes of taxation in the other Contracting State, in the year that includes that time and all subsequent years, as if the individual had, immediately before that time, sold and repurchased the property for an amount equal to its fair market value at that time.” (See Article 8 of the Protocol).

Mandatory Arbitration

For US and Canadian residents subject to certain unresolved double-taxation issues between US and Canadian revenue authorities within a specified time period, the Protocol changed the existing Treaty to allow taxpayers to require that the revenue authorities of the two countries enter a binding arbitration. While the arbitration procedure is mandatory for revenue authorities once compelled by a taxpayer, the decision of whether to do so is entirely optional for the taxpayer. A taxpayer must have filed a tax return with at least one of the two countries to utilize the election.

“Limited Liability Companies” (LLCs) and Other Hybrid Entities

LLCs and certain other hybrid entities face different tax treatment in the US and Canada. In general, in the US, such entities are treated as pass-through vehicles, whereas in Canada, they are treated as corporations (please see Department of Finance Canada for more information about Canadian taxation). Prior to the Protocol, a reduced withholding tax rate was not available to such entities because an entity must be taxable as a “resident” in at least one of the two countries in order to benefit from the Treaty. According to the Department of Finance Canada, under the Protocol changes, “Income that the residents of one country earn through a hybrid entity will in certain cases be treated by the other country (the source country) as having been earned by a resident of the residence country. On the other hand, a corollary rule provides that if a hybrid entity’s income is not taxed directly in the hands of its investors, it will be treated as not having been earned by a resident.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with US-Canada Cross-border Tax Issues

If you have any questions regarding US-Canada tax treaties or you have not filed your Forms 8891, contact the experienced tax firm of Sherayzen Law Office for help.