The accidental American


There are many people living in Canada with dual Canadian-American citizenship. In Canada, taxation is based on residency: if you live here, we want your money. In the US, taxation is based on citizenship: if you’re American, they want your money, regardless of whether you have lived outside of the country for decades. So, Canadians living permanently in the US will not need to file their Canadian taxes, but Americans living in Canada still need to file with the IRS to avoid penalties, which can be severe. The Globe and Mail published an article last week about Americans facing the long arm of the IRS. According to the US tax rules, every American citizen must file a US tax return showing their foreign assets, and this rule catches Americans living in Canada, who may well be Canadian citizens, simply for having a standard bank account. If you are concerned that this may apply to you, you would be well advised to speak to your accountant about filing a US tax return. Because of treaties, you likely will not owe anything to the IRS, but it would be wise to make sure they know what you’re up to.