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Congressman says 1% property tax violates standing trade agreements
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is asking United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai to open formal consultations with the government of Canada to explore if the Underused Housing Tax is inconsistent with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
In a letter to Ambassador Tai, Higgins wrote, “The United States and Canada have a longstanding, cooperative, and mutually beneficial relationship. Western New York and Southern Ontario exemplify this unique bond. The UHT’s impact on Americans who own property in Canada, however, threatens our binational community and appears to be inconsistent with the USMCA.”
Higgins’ team said, “One of the principles of the USMCA is the requirement that all parties not discriminate against each other or provide preferential treatment solely to domestic companies or citizens, including with respect to internal taxation. Canada’s Underused Housing Tax does not apply equally to Canadian and U.S. citizens and therefore may violate these principles. The USMCA stipulates parties can request consultations with another party when trade agreement disputes arise.
“Canada recently imposed a 1% tax on ‘vacant or underused housing’ owned by non-resident, non-Canadians. The intent was to target foreign investment speculation negatively impacting affordable housing in Canada, but it is impacting good-faith, longtime cottage owners who have maintained and enjoyed living among their Canadian neighbors for years.
“Higgins began sounding the alarm about the Underused Housing Tax since it was first proposed in the government of Canada’s budget 2021. Most recently, Higgins asked the U.S. secretary of state to object to the Underused Housing Tax in conversations with the government of Canada.
“Outreach from frustrated U.S. residents has increased in recent weeks, as the April 30 tax form deadline approaches in Canada. Congressman Brian Higgins has heard from hundreds of U.S. residents negatively impacted by the Underused Housing Tax, including over 320 property owners who completed an online survey.”
Higgins is a member of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade and serves as co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus and the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group. His Western New York district, which includes the cities of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, borders southern Ontario.