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Principal Residence Exemption

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Filing Your Return -> Principal Residence Exemption

Principal Residence Exemption (PRE)

Income Tax Act s. 40(2)(b)

When a principal residence is sold, the gain is not taxable if it has been the person's principal residence for the whole time it has been owned.  This is because the principal residence exemption eliminates the capital gain.  In years prior to 2016, there was no need to report the sale on your tax return if the entire gain was eliminated.  However, on October 3, 2016 the federal government announced that, starting with the 2016 tax year, the sale of a principal residence must be reported on Schedule 3 of the tax return (see below for more filing information), in order to claim the principal residence exemption.  This change applies also for deemed dispositions, such as a deemed disposition due to change in use of the property.

Two other major changes to the Income Tax Act (ITA) regarding the reporting of the disposition of a principal residence:

bulletCanada Revenue Agency (CRA) can, according to new ITA s. 152(4)(b.3), reassess a taxpayer outside of the normal reassessment period, if the taxpayer does not report a disposition.  Normally for individuals the reassessment period is 3 years from the date of the initial notice of assessment, with some exceptions.
bulletIf the disposition of the principal residence is reported late, a late-filing penalty can be imposed @ $100 per month x the number of months late, to a maximum of $8,000.  New ITA s. 220(3.21) is added to this effect.

To designate a property as the principal residence, it does not have to be the place where the taxpayer lives all the time.  The property will qualify as a principal residence if the taxpayer, taxpayer's spouse or common-law partner, or any of the taxpayer's children lived in it at some time during the year.  However, if it is rented out the situation may change.  See the information below re change in use.

As mentioned in the March 2016 Life in the Tax Lane video, the principal residence does not have to be located in Canada.  They point out that if you purchased a vacation property in the US, then you could designate it as your principal residence for years in which you resided there at some time during the year.  Check out the video for more information, as well as the CRA Folio S1-F3-C2:  Principal Residence Outside Canada.

A taxpayer and spouse may only designate one principal residence between them for each tax year after 1981.  For years prior to 1982, each individual taxpayer can designate one principal residence, so if a couple has owned both a primary home and a cottage for decades, the principal residence exemption is available for both homes for the years prior to 1982.

The increase in value of the home from time of purchase is used to calculate the gain before deducting the principal residence exemption.  If a home has been owned since before 1972, only the increase in value since December 31, 1971 is used to calculate the gain before deducting the principal residence exemption.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) usually considers that if there is more than 1/2 hectare (1.25 acres) of property, only 1/2 hectare of the land can be considered part of the principal residence, and there would be a capital gain on the excess when the property is sold, even if the rest is the principal residence.  However, they also consider whether the property is subdividable.  Thus, if the property is 2 hectares, and is not subdividable, they may consider the whole amount of the land to be part of the principal residence.

Reporting the Principal Residence Sale on Your Tax Return

As indicated above, there is a penalty of up to $8,000 for a late-filing penalty.  If you fail to report the sale of your principal residence at all, you may be taxed on the capital gain.

For 2017 and later taxation years, Form T2091(IND) Designation of a property as a Principal Residence by an Individual (Other Than a Personal Trust) (T1255 for a deceased taxpayer) must be filed for all principal residence disposals, as indicated on Schedule 3.  However, if your home was your principal residence for the whole time that you owned it, only page 1 of the T2091 has to be completed, not the pages where the proceeds and adjusted cost base are reported.

If you are using tax software, you will probably have to go to the Principal Residence Designation Worksheet and tick the box that asks "Was this your principal residence for all the years since acquisition?"  And, perhaps depending on the software, you may have to enter the proceeds of disposition on that worksheet in order for the information that it was your principal residence to flow through to the bottom of Schedule 3 Line 179.  Do not enter the proceeds and ACB on Schedule 3.  If your entire gain is not eliminated by the Principal Residence Exemption, then both the proceeds and cost must be entered on the worksheet, and this will flow through to Schedule 3.

If there is more than one owner, each will report the sale on Schedule 3 and the T2091, using only their share of the proceeds and cost basis when this information is required.  For instance, when a home is owned jointly by a couple and each owns 50%, each will report 50% of the proceeds on Schedule 3 or the T2091, depending on the taxation year, and depending on whether this information is required.

For the 2016 taxation year, Form T2091 only had to be filed if your home was not your principal residence for the whole time that you owned it.  This form requires input of the proceeds, adjusted cost base, outlays and expenses related to the sale, and other information required to calculate the capital gain.

For taxation years prior to 2016, Folio S1-F3-C2 paragraph 2.15 indicates that the T2091 must be filed if:
     - a taxable capital gain on the disposition of the property remains after using the principal residence exemption formula, or
     - for T664 or T664(Seniors), Election to Report a Capital Gain on Property Owned at the End of February 22, 1994 was filed regarding the property by the taxpayer, the taxpayer's spouse or common-law partner, and the property was the taxpayer's principal residence for 1994, or it was designated in the year as the principal residence for any tax year.

Principal Residence Exemption Formula

The principal residence exemption calculation formula is:

(# of years home is principal residence + 1)  x capital gain
                   # of years home is owned

The extra year in the top of the equation (the "one-plus rule") means that when a person moves, both the old home and the new home will be treated as a principal residence in the year of the move, even though only one of them can actually be designated as such for that year.  For dispositions occurring after October 3, 2016, the "one-plus" factor applies only where the taxpayer is resident in Canada during the year in which they acquire the property.  On Schedule 3 of the 2016 tax return, in the section titled "Principal Residence Designation", you can tick #1 to designate the property to have been your principal residence for all the years owned.  If you sold your principal residence in 2016 and purchased another one, by ticking #1 you are designating the property as your principal residence for all years including the year of sale (or for all years except one year), and you will not have to complete Form T2091(IND) - but for the 2017 and later taxation years the T2091 still must be completed.  CRA indicates that you should keep your decision in writing for future reference, especially for when property #2 is sold.  See Sale of your principal residence on the CRA website for more information.

Example of principal residence exemption calculation:

bullet taxpayer has owned their home for 20 years
bullet it has been their principal residence for only 14 years
bullet the capital gain before the exemption is $100,000
bulletthe taxpayer was a Canadian resident in the year the property was acquired

The exemption amount is (14 + 1)/20 x 100,000 = $75,000, leaving a capital gain of $25,000, and a taxable capital gain (50%) of $12,500.

Example of principal residence exemption calculation when 2 homes owned:

bullet1st home purchased in 2003
bullet2nd home purchased in 2010
bullet1st home sold in 2015 for $100,000 gain, claimed principal residence exemption for 2003 to 2010 (8 years)
bullet1st home was owned for 13 years (2003 to 2015 inclusive)
bullet2nd home sold in 2017 for $150,000 gain, claimed principal residence exemption for 2011 to 2017 (7 years)
bullet2nd home was owned for 8 years (2010 to 2017 inclusive)
bulletthe taxpayer has always been a Canadian resident
bulletboth homes can qualify as principal residence in each year owned

The exemption amount when the 1st home is sold is (8 + 1)/13 x $100,000 = $69,231, leaving capital gain of $30,769.

The exemption amount when the 2nd home is sold is (7 + 1)/8 x $150,000 = $150,000, leaving no capital gain.

Cottage as a Principal Residence

If you have both a home and a cottage, and sell one of them at a profit, you must make a decision as to whether to designate the sold property as your principal residence for some or all of the years it was owned.  If you sell a cottage that you have owned for 10 years, you could designate the cottage as your principal residence for the entire 10 years in order to eliminate capital gains tax, as long as you have not designated any other property as your principal residence during that time.

This would mean that when you sell your home you will likely be paying capital gains tax, as you cannot also designate the home as your principal residence for those 10 years.  If you have a significant gain so far on your home but a small gain on the sale of the cottage, it might be best to save the exemption for the sale of your home.

If you had sold a previous home at a gain say 4 years prior to selling the cottage, and did not declare the sale for capital gains purposes, then you can only claim the cottage as your principal residence for a maximum of 4 years.  This is because you were deemed to have claimed the principal residence exemption when you sold the previous home.

Change in Use of Home

See also our article regarding a change in use of your home from principal residence to income producing, or from income producing to principal residence.  How you do things may affect whether or not you have to report a capital gain.

See also:

    - Real Estate Sales - Are They Taxable? What About My Principal Residence?

Canada Revenue Agency Resources

Income tax information you need to know if you bought or sold a home

Schedule 3 - Capital Gains (or Losses)

Form T2091(IND) Designation of a property as a Principal Residence by an Individual (Other Than a Personal Trust) (newly revised for 2016)

T2091(IND)-WS Principal Residence Worksheet

Principal residence and other real estate

Folio S1-F3-C2: Principal Residence

Folio S1-F3-C2:  Principal Residence Outside Canada

Reporting the sale of your principal residence for individuals (other than trusts) - more information on the 2016 reporting change

Revised: May 02, 2019

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