Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Book Review: Canadians Resident Abroad (4th ed) by Garry R. Duncan and Elizabeth Peck

About half of this book is pure gold and half is more or less junk. Fortunately, it is easy to distinguish the two.

The good stuff is:
  • chapters 1 to 6 and 10 to 12 cover the Canadian tax implications for Canadian residents, emigrants, non-residents, immigrants and other permutations from many angles - income, property, investments, pensions, tax plans (RRSP, RRIF, LIRA etc); there is much detailed explanation and numerous mini examples of how things work, which is tremendously helpful because this is very complex and arcane stuff; adding to the value is the commentary of the expert tax practitioner Garry Duncan telling how the Canada Revenue Agency interprets and applies its own too-often ambiguous rules. For instance, on page six, there is a lengthy list of secondary factors that CRA uses to determine whether you are a Canadian resident for tax purposes or not, which tautologically includes whether or not you have filed a Canadian tax return. There is a certain black humour value from explanations of how twisted and bizarre the effects of tax laws can be. I especially enjoyed on page 56 where he explains how "Under certain circumstances, you may be required to pay tax to Canada even though are a non-resident earning income in another country." Yikes! Any one of these many situations, if they apply to you, would justify the price of the book many times over by avoiding huge amounts of aggravation and perhaps unanticipated large tax consequences, or on the other side of the ledger, finding ways to intelligently and legally reduce your taxes. The book should really be titled Taxes and Canadians Resident Abroad.
The junk is:
  • chapter 7 - purportedly about health coverage, but consisting mostly of pages of contact information for provincial health ministries, private health care providers and clinics; it isn't to me worth writing on page 121 "... since residency regulations vary widely across Canada (and, by the way, are totally unrelated to the residency rates for income tax purposes), you should never assume that your coverage is continuing ..." Well, thanks a lot, but I bought the book to find out the details not to be told to phone the bureaucracy. This is especially annoying since,
  • pages 157 to 335 consist of appendices, most of which are complete copies of tax forms and circulars, though there is one bizarre table of foreign currency exchange rates as of 2001 and another with world time zones. In this Internet age (and it had started by the 2002 publishing date of this edition) web addresses and links to find current versions of these documents would save a lot of pages that no one will read.
  • chapter 8 on Canadian drivers' licenses includes a similar vague mention of varying provincial rules and pages of contact addresses
  • chapter 9 on the no-longer-in-existence GST rebate program (cancelled as of April 1, 2007 and replaced by a somewhat similar Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program) shows the age of the 2002 edition - it's time for an update and revamp.
In short, half this book deserves five stars out of five but the other half only deserves one star, which comes out to an average of three stars out of five.

Still, if you are coming to, or going from, Canada, permanently or temporarily, buy this book. It is available from the publisher Carswell , where you can see the table of contents, or possibly from Chapters or Amazon., where it is currently unavailable.


Rob in Madrid said...

thanks for the book review, most books of this nature tend to deal with Americans and for a good reason, 10 times as many. My wife and I are non residents and plan on doing our main investing in Canada as well will be receiving an inheritance at some point as well, so that is good info to have.

Rob in Madrid said...

thanks for the link, your right, the book is unavailable at Amazon

did notice that the US and CDN price are pretty much the same. I'll order it and let you know what I think of it.

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