During the pre-pandemic era, many of us knew someone who had an arrangement with their employer to work remotely, away from the traditional office setting. We would hear stories of their exciting locations and dream about answering client calls while lounging in a hammock between palm trees. While they were initially referred to as telecommuters, the rise of email and video calls in our work lives gave birth to a new term: remote workers digital nomads, capturing the essence of these office ghosts.
Tax Implications for Canadian Digital Nomads: Remote Workers and Filing Obligations
The pandemic has ushered in a new era of digital nomads, with Canadians from various industries embracing remote work as the new norm. As the ability to work outside the traditional office setting becomes more prevalent, individuals are taking advantage of extended trips, blurring the lines between vacations and remote work. In early 2022, countries like Spain and Italy even introduced digital nomad visas to attract tourists seeking longer stays.
However, amidst the allure of the digital nomad lifestyle, tax implications arise. The burning question remains: If you earn income in another country, are you obligated to pay taxes there? The answer depends on the country in which you are working.
While most countries seek to tax individuals working within their borders, Canada has tax treaties with many countries that place limitations on such taxation. These treaties often include a provision stating that if you spend less than 183 days in the other country, work for a Canadian employer, and your employer lacks a permanent establishment in that country, you will be exempt from paying taxes there. It’s worth considering when planning your next working holiday, especially if it involves destinations like the U.S., Spain, or Italy.
Furthermore, some tax treaties provide tax exemptions if your income falls below a certain threshold, regardless of whether your employer is a resident or non-resident of that country. For instance, in Mexico, if your earnings are less than $16,000 (or the equivalent in pesos), you won’t be subject to employment taxes. In Jamaica, the threshold is set at $5,000.
As the digital nomad lifestyle continues to evolve, it is crucial to stay informed about the tax implications and obligations associated with working abroad while maintaining Canadian residency.
Tax Obligations for Canadian Digital Nomads: Residential Ties and Foreign Tax Credits
If you maintain residential ties to Canada, your tax obligations will continue to be in Canada. Having “residential ties” means that you will be subject to Canadian taxes on your worldwide income, including income earned in another country. Major residential ties include owning a house, having a spouse or children in Canada. Additionally, secondary residential ties such as health insurance, a driver’s license, bank accounts, or club memberships can also qualify you as a resident for tax purposes.
Regardless of whether Canada has a tax treaty with the other country, you can claim federal and provincial foreign tax credits for any taxes you are liable for in the other country, as long as it does not exceed the Canadian tax payable on that income.
However, it’s important to note that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will only allow your claim for a foreign tax credit if you can provide proof of the foreign taxes paid. Typically, this requires submitting a copy of your foreign tax return and a Notice of Assessment issued by the tax authorities of that country. In other words, if you fail to file a foreign tax return to determine your final tax liability in another country, you may not be able to claim a foreign tax credit on your Canadian tax return.
If you have worked in the United States, you will need to file Form 8833 along with your 1040-NR tax return to disclose your treaty-exempt income. If you have received income from self-employment sources while abroad, seeking assistance from a tax expert is advisable.
Some digital nomad situations are more straightforward. For those who live and work in Canada, home office expenses can be claimed. You have the option to use the temporary flat rate method, which provides a deduction of $2 per business day for individuals who worked from home, or the detailed method, which requires authorization from your employer and calculations to determine the amount you can claim.