My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Renting Your Property as an Airbnb - Beware of the Income Tax Issues

In the last few years, more and more people have begun to rent out all or part of their residence through
online services such as Airbnb or other rental vacation sites such as Tripping.com or FlipKey. Some will say it is for the unique opportunity to host people from a variety of backgrounds, others that it helps to cover the cost of the skyrocketing real estate/rental market.

Regardless of the reason, there are potentially detrimental tax consequences that can impact you in both the short- and long-term that I would suggest are unexpected to those renting.

Today, I discuss some of these tax consequences. Before I start, I would like to acknowledge the substantial assistance of Christopher Bell CPA, a senior tax accountant with BDO Canada LLP, in writing this post.

Sales Tax


The first thing that you will want to consider (which most laypeople would not) is whether your rental income is subject to GST/HST. You are required to register your business for GST/HST when your gross revenues from all of your commercial activities surpass $30,000 in revenue in a 12-month period. As a result, even if you only make $5,000 from renting your residence, if other commercial activities total $25,000 or more, you will be required to register to collect and remit sales tax. There is an important distinction to keep in mind when considering rentals. Long-term rentals (think of the rent you pay to your landlord) are exempt from GST/HST, while short-term housing rentals for periods of less than 30 continuous days are taxable for GST/HST purposes. There is a clear distinction here and Airbnb rentals, like hotels, are generally considered taxable for GST/HST purposes once you surpass $30,000 in a year.

You can claim back portions of the GST/HST you pay on expenses that are incurred related to the rental of the space in your home. Some items you might be able to recover GST/HST on are:
  •  Housekeeping expenses
  •  Professional/accounting fees
  •  Advertising expenses
Note that there are some potentially significant impacts of improper planning when it comes to GST/HST. If you rent out your property for 90% of the time for rental periods of under 60 days, the property could lose its “residential complex” status, which would result in any future sale of the property to becoming subject to GST/HST. Good luck trying to explain that to any potential buyers!

If you decide to reduce or eliminate the rental of the property in the future, it may change status again, to either an exempt long-term rental or back to a personal residence. When this change occurs, you would need to pay GST/HST on the fair market value of the house at the time of this change. In some cases, you may be eligible to apply for a rebate on these taxes.

As you can see, the GST/HST issues of renting as an Airbnb are very complex. I strongly urge you to seek professional advice before you start renting. Note: I will not answer any questions on GST/HST as I am not an expert in this area. I am just making you aware of the issues you must consider.

Income Tax


Any income you earn from renting your home needs to be reported on your tax return and can be classified in one of two ways: rental income or business income. It is very important to always consider the impact renting can have on your Principal Residence Exemption. This is discussed in greater detail below. The characterization of your rental income is largely determined by the number and kinds of services that you provide to your customers. If you rent your home to someone and they only receive the “bare-minimum,” such as light, heat, parking, laundry, etc., this income would typically be deemed as rental income. If, however, you are offering additional services, such as meals, cleaning, or entertainment, you are more likely to be deemed to be carrying on business activities. As Chris told me, "if you want to keep the green, keep it lean".

You can deduct related expenses from the income earned on your tax return. Some of those items include the following:

1. Utilities (light, heat, water, etc.)
2. Maintenance (painting, small repairs, cleaning*)
3. Property taxes and condo fees
4. Internet and cable
5. Home insurance
6. Mortgage interest

*Note: you cannot clean or do repairs yourself and pay yourself $50 an hour for your hard work. Cleaning and repairs are typically only deductible if done by external service providers.

These expenses will need to be prorated based on the number of days of the year in which you hosted guests in the year against the total amount of time you’ve owned the home. Similarly, if you only rent out a portion of your home, you would need to prorate the expenses further to account for the proportion of the home that is used for rental purposes. The space can be prorated based on either the square metres/feet of the home you are renting or based on the number of rooms you rent out. I suggest you base the pro-ration on the square area to avoid any conflict with CRA, so get the measuring tape out!

Impact of renting as Airbnb on your Principal Residence


There are sometimes more significant amounts that you want to claim, such as large repairs or maintenance costs. Given the capital nature of these expenses, you may want to claim Capital Cost Allowance ("CCA"- you may know CCA as depreciation) on these repairs, or maybe on the property itself. While it is tempting to reduce your annual income by making a CCA claim, there are some long-term implications of doing so.

First of all, renting out your property regularly may result in you being considered to have changed the use of the property, which could result in some significant tax consequences. There is a deemed disposition of the property upon the change in use at the fair market value, and the property is no longer considered a principle residence.

Furthermore, claiming CCA against your income will potentially limit or outright prevent you from claiming the principle residence exemption on your home when you decide to sell it. Something to note would be that if you make significant structural changes and there is a significant change in use, CRA will deem the property as income generating.

Final Comments


It is vital that you understand the various complex income tax implications discussed above. I strongly urge you to obtain professional advice before you start renting in order to avoid some costly pitfalls.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

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