The American in Canada: Real-Life Tax and Financial Insights into Moving to and Living in Canada.

Description

352 pages
Contains Index
$24.95
ISBN 978-1-55022-790-1
DDC 332.024008913071

Publisher

Year

2008

Contributor

Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a policy advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and
Universities.

Review

Thousands of U.S. citizens and residents move to Canada every year. This book attempts to provide key financial information for them (and to drum up business for the authors). In a detail-saturated handbook, the authors review transition planning, asset management, citizenship status, moving, taxation, currency exchange, retirement and estate planning, education financing, investments, and recreational property ownership. It’s a long list, and it is likely to be of interest primarily to people with savings in the six figures. The topics covered are important, but this reviewer can’t help feeling that there is far too much emphasis on the complexities and only tangential remarks about the benefits of immigration to Canada.

 

Both authors are from Alberta and both now live in the United States. Their biases are pretty clear—Canada’s publicly funded health system is “socialized.” Privately owned long-term care homes in Canada are not as good as those publicly owned (an assumption that is not borne out by the mortality statistics). They do acknowledge that it’s possible that the owner of a business in Canada can actually pay less in taxes than in the U.S. I found their statement that the U.S. is a “much older nation” to be absurd, given the date for the establishment of New France or the settlements in Newfoundland, but the authors are financial planners, not historians.

 

There is also misleading or simply incorrect information. Myths about Canada Post die hard—the authors contend that it takes up to two weeks for letters to reach the U.S. (My own experience is that a letter from Toronto to Seattle always takes less than a week.) They don’t seem to understand that Canada’s constitutional monarchy does not signify a lack of independence (a misunderstanding shared by many Americans). It is not correct that you cannot receive a tax deduction for donated goods in Canada. Despite being published in Canada, the spelling is all based on the U.S. standard—no “colour” or “kilometre”—not an effective method of introducing Americans to Canadian orthography.

 

It’s true that every U.S. citizen and resident is expected to file a tax return whether or not they owe taxes and regardless of where they live, but from my own experience most Americans living in Canada don’t. The book emphasizes the complexities for Americans moving to Canada, but thousands move and would hardly benefit from such detailed (and expensive) advice. The U.S. tax system is far more convoluted than the Canadian, and almost no Americans do their own income tax return. It’s not just the difficulty, however. There is a tax treaty between the United States and Canada, so it is more than likely that having gone to the trouble of hiring someone to do your U.S. tax return, you won’t pay taxes anyway. As a result, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is not likely to spend scarce resources going after people living abroad who wouldn’t need to pay taxes even when identified. This practicality defeats the author’s approach, however.

 

Given the level of detail, the presentation sometimes breaks down. The paragraph on Ontario’s health plan is garbled so that it appears that newcomers who earn less than $20,000 don’t have to pay premiums for health insurance coverage for the three-month waiting list. In addition, sometimes the exchange rate calculations seem to defeat the authors. Inevitably, details become outdated. To the list of jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is recognized must now be added Sweden and, in the U.S., the states of Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. Filing for Canadian citizenship now costs $200 ($100 for right-of-citizenship and $100 processing fee), not $100 as the authors have it.

 

Despite the reams of information provided in this handbook, the authors conclude that they do not recommend that readers plan their own move. They further emphasize that there are “very few people who can competently write a comprehensive financial plan for your transition to Canada.” Toward the book’s end, they helpfully provide a puff piece about their own firm. If a potential reader is concerned about the financial details dealt with in this volume, the logical outcome would be to contact the authors’ firm, not to buy this book.

Citation

Wruk, Brian D., and Terry F. Ritchie., “The American in Canada: Real-Life Tax and Financial Insights into Moving to and Living in Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28719.