We are neither tax lawyers nor accounts, however, it is important that we point out to our clients who are the estate trustees aka executors, that they retain the services of a qualified accountant as quickly as possible.
It is not uncommon to have an estate with foreign beneficiaries. Beneficiaries who live in another country and are deemed to be a non-resident for tax purposes, are an important factor in driving an estate trustee to retain the services of a qualified accountant at the earliest opportunity. The Income Tax Act has very strict rules dealing with the taxation of income within an estate where there are non-resident beneficiaries. This can apply even if the income is not being distributed to the non-residents.
Income paid to a non-resident beneficiary is subject to a domestic 25% withholding tax and it is the responsibility of the estate trustee aka executor to hold this money and remit the tax to the Receiver General in addition to all the other filing responsibilities of the estate trustee.
If the assets of the estate meet the definition of taxable Canadian property, there may also be an obligation to withhold 25% of the value of the capital interest of the non-Canadian resident beneficiary in the estate, unless a certificate of compliance is obtained under Section 116 of the Income Tax Act. This cannot be understated.
If a non-resident beneficiary lives in a country that has an inheritance tax, the beneficiary might very well find themselves subject to tax on the inheritance that they get. This is, in addition, the tax that is levied against the deceased in Canada. In essence, this becomes a form of double taxation.
There is yet another treacherous detail that requires the services of a highly qualified estate accountant. A US citizen or long-term green card holder or an individual deemed to live in the United Kingdom as their domicile, are faced with additional inheritance taxes and obligations. We generally ask at the outset of an estate whether any of the beneficiaries are non-residents of Canada. This is extremely important. This simply reemphasizes the theme of this blog article, an estate trustee needs to retain the services of a qualified accountant at the earliest opportunity and not to delay.