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Immigration Trust: A five year tax holiday for new Canadian immigrants

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NOTE: Canada’s immigration trust regime was abolished by legislation introduced in 2014 and is no longer in effect.

Canada’s Income Tax Act allows new immigrants to Canada to benefit from a five year ‘tax holiday’ upon their arrival, which is particularly beneficial to individuals moving to Canada who have a high net worth and retain assets outside of Canada.

Newcomers to Canada are normally subject to Canadian income taxes on their worldwide income upon their arrival. However, certain provisions in the Act allow for the creation of what is known as an “immigration trust.”  This trust holds the newcomer’s foreign investment assets. If properly-structured, any foreign earned income and capital gains earned from the assets held in this trust are exempt from taxation.

It is possible for immigrants to set up an immigration trust and to transfer their foreign assets to that trust before arriving in Canada. As an example, take an individual who plans to reside in Canada and who owns property that generates rental income in his or her country of origin. This individual can then establish an offshore Immigration Trust and transfer the property to that trust. The income earned from the rental of this property will not be taxable by Canadian authorities for a period of sixty months, or five years, from the date the individual becomes a resident of Canada.

Because of this five-year tax holiday, it is possible for an immigrant to acquire Canadian citizenship in just three years, and then choose to become a non-resident for Canadian tax purposes. In this manner, it is possible for foreign earned income and capital gains to never at any point fall into the Canadian tax net.