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Higgins Calls On Biden Administration to Object to "Underused Housing Tax" Imposed on U.S. Residents Who Own Property In Canada

Congressman Says New Tax is Both Offensive & a Violation of Binational Agreements

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling on the Biden Administration to address Canada’s Underused Housing Tax in upcoming discussions with the Government of Canada. The new 1% tax on “vacant or underused housing” owned by non-resident, non-Canadians is hitting Americans, many of whom have contributed to Canada’s economy and owned cottages in Canada and for generations, especially hard.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Rep. Higgins writes, “At a time when encouraging cross-border travel and economic activity should be prioritized as both countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an unnecessary burden and bad faith action by the Government of Canada, which violates the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as well as longstanding tax treaties. In your upcoming conversations with the Government of Canada, I request that objecting to this tax is a high priority.”

Rep. Higgins has heard from over 200 U.S. residents upset about the new tax, including over 165 who completed an online survey and dozens more who called and wrote to his office. Of the survey respondents, over 80% live in Western New York, about 10% live in Florida and others live across the U.S. including the states of South Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, and Colorado. The majority own property in Fort Erie, Crystal Beach, Port Colborne, and Ridgeway in the province of Ontario. Many have been property owners in Canada for decades, with 42% of respondents having property in Canada for between 20 and 49 years, and 28% having their Canadian property for over 50 years. 

In addition to the cost associated with the tax, many have expressed to Congressman Higgins frustration with the lack of information, clarity, and notification of the tax by the Government of Canada. The tax forms are due in Canada April 30th, but owners must first file to receive a tax identifier number. Failure to pay the tax comes with a minimum penalty of $5,000.

Higgins has objected to the Underused Housing Tax since it was first proposed in the Government of Canada’s Budget 2021, voicing opposition with the United States Trade Representative , the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Canada’s Ambassador to the United States .

President Biden has announced plans to visit Canada for meetings with Prime Minister Trudeau and their Administrations in March. 

Congressman Higgins serves on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, which oversees U.S. Tax policy, and the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, which has oversight of trade agreements like the USMCA.  Higgins’ Western New York district, which includes the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, borders southern Ontario. Higgins is co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group and the Northern Border Caucus.