By Neil Seidler, CPA, CMA
How long can Canadians stay in the United States of America, and what are the income tax implications?
That’s a bit of a trick question. The answer is different for immigration purposes and for income tax purposes.
The immigration answer is long and detailed and best suited for another article, but the
quick and general answer is that according to Customs and Border Protection
“Canadians can generally visit the U.S. for up to six months.” The issue becomes: Is that
6 months at a time, 6 months in a calendar year, or 6 months in a revolving 12-month
period? There is no specific time that you must be outside of the USA before returning.
It becomes a matter of, are you trying to become a resident without going through the
The IRS has a different approach. You will be considered a United States resident for
tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet
this test, you go through their calculations related to the number of days you’ve been in
the USA over the past 3 years. What that all really means is that if you’re consistently
in the USA for more than 120 days per year, you can be considered a U.S. resident for
income tax purposes by the IRS and taxable by the IRS on your world income. That
could result in you being taxed in Canada and in the USA – double taxation.
The solution to this problem is relatively simple although, more often than not, Canadian
snowbirds are not doing the one simple thing to avoid a potential problem at the border.
It’s a Form 8840, and by completing it and filing it with the IRS you’re telling them that
although you’ve failed the substantial presence test and may be considered a U.S.
resident for tax purposes, you’re not a U.S. resident for tax purposes as you have a closer
connection to Canada and you’re filing a Canadian Tax Return.
Canadians, and especially full-timer RVers, spending the winters in the southern U.S.
should always carry an immigration/tax file with them that shows they have a closer
connection to Canada with copies of utility bills, property tax statements and bank
account statements showing Canadian accounts; copies of their past Form 8840s,
any non-resident tax returns filed, and copies of their Canadian Tax Return; and details
of the days they’ve been in the USA over the past 3 to 5 years. Better to be crossing
the border prepared and have the answers documented than to be denied entry and
heading back home to assemble documents.
In a future article we’ll discuss the procedures for Canadians to get back the tax that might have been deducted from your gambling winnings if you were a winner at a casino.
We welcome your questions and inquiries. If you have tax-related questions, or any other questions that we may be able to address, please email us or comment below and we’ll try to answer them in a future article. You can email me at TheRVTaxGuy@gmail.com .
The material presented here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to
provide, and should not be relied on for tax, accounting or legal advice. Readers should
consult their own tax, accounting, and legal advisors to discuss their own personal
Neil Seidler, CPA, CMA, has served businesses and individuals across the USA and Canada for 35 years. As an avid RVer and recent full-timer he has a unique perspective on RV tax issues.
Read Neil’s previous posts here.