Last month’s introduction of the 15-per-cent Non-Resident Speculation Tax has turned real estate lawyers into agents for the provincial government.
Lawyers now have to be snoops and report sensitive client information which, until April 20, did not have to be revealed.
Even worse, lawyers are now responsible to the government for certifying the truth of the client’s personal information — but with no way to verify it.
Here is the information that now must be collected and sent to the Ontario government for purchases of land with one to six dwellings, and agricultural land. The information is required from all clients — “foreigners” or not. Disclosure to the provincial government was never previously required.
Under proposed amendments to the Land Transfer Tax Act, lawyers must sign the disclosure statements and certify their truth to the government. I’m not sure how we can verify a statement made by a client about things like his or her citizenship, or presence in Canada during the last year. But the law says that anyone who makes, or participates in making, a false or deceptive statement to the government in the deed registration process, including a lawyer, is guilty of an offence.
The penalty is up to twice the evaded tax and two years in jail. So if, for instance, a buyer misleads their lawyer about the number of days he or she has spent in Canada in the last year, both of them can be imprisoned.
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