Underused Housing Tax (“UHT”)

Underused Housing Tax (“UHT”)


The Underused Housing Tax (“UHT”) is an annual 1% tax on the ownership of vacant or underused housing in Canada. This tax took effect on January 1, 2022. The tax is meant to target non-resident, non-Canadian owners of residential property. However, the administration of this tax will impact many Canadian resident individuals and corporations who own residential property. Severe penalties may apply for failure to file a UHT return, even though no tax may be owing.

HLH-Edmonton-Underused Housing Tax-cottage in the woods

Who must file a UHT return?

You must file a UHT return if you met all of the following conditions as of December 31, 2022: 

  • You are the legal owner of a residential property in Canada, and, 
  • You are not considered an “excluded owner” of the residential property.

What exactly is a “residential property”?

Per CRA, a residential property is defined as property that is one of the following, located in Canada: 

  • Detached house. 
  • Semi-detached house. 
  • Duplex. 
  • Triplex.
  • Laneway houses and coach houses.
  • Townhouse or rowhouse unit. 
  • Residential condominium unit. 
  • Cottages, cabins, and chalets that are not commercial cottages, cabins, or chalets. 

How do I know if I am the “legal owner” of a residential property?

You are the legal owner of a residential property if any of the following apply:

  • You are identified as an owner of the property via the land registration system in which the property is located. 
  • You are considered an owner of the property based on such a land registration system. 
  • You are a life tenant under a life estate in the property. 
  • You are a life lease holder of the property. 
  • You are a lessee that has continuous possession of the land on which the property is situated under a long-term lease. 

I am the legal owner of residential property as of December 31, 2022. How do I determine if I am an “excluded owner”?

Unfortunately, the list of criteria to be considered an excluded owner of a residential property is very limiting. Canadian citizens or permanent residents who hold a residential property personally (such as their principal residence) are not required to file a UHT return.

However, if a Canadian citizen/permanent resident holds a residential property via a trust or a partnership, then that individual is required to file a UHT return. Co-owners of residential rental properties may also be required to file a UHT return.

Who must file a UHT return?

  • Canadian individuals and corporations who are partners of a partnership that holds a residential property as of December 31, 2022. 
  • Canadian individuals and corporations who are trustees of a trust (including a bare trust) that holds residential property as of December 31, 2022. 
    • Not including trusts that were created upon the death of another person (referred to as a testamentary trust). 
  • Canadian private corporations that legally own a residential property as of December 31, 2022 (this includes home builders). 
  • Non-Canadian corporations that own a Canadian residential property in any capacity.  
  • Individuals who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada who own residential property in any capacity.

What is a “bare trust”?

A bare trust is a special legal relationship. A bare trust occurs when one person (the trustee) has a legal ownership of a property, and another person has beneficial ownership over the same property. The only responsibility of the trustee is to ultimately transfer the legal title of the property to the beneficial owner.  

HLH-Edmonton-Underused Housing Tax-bare trust definition

The problem is that bare trusts are often created without the knowledge of either the trustee or the beneficiary. The Underused Housing Tax Act is unclear whether the trustees of bare trusts are affected by these new rules. However, it is recommended that bare trustees that involve a residential property should file a UHT return in order to avoid any potential penalties. Examples of bare trusts that involve residential properties include: 

  • When a person co-signs on a mortgage for a home with another individual. 
    • For example, if an adult child bought a house and the parents of that child were co-signers on the mortgage, the parents have legal ownership, but the child has beneficial ownership. In this instance, the parents are the trustees, and they would be required to file a UHT return.  
  • If an owner of a residential property adds a family member on title of the residential property for the purpose of avoiding probate. 
    • For example, an elderly parent may add an adult child on as an owner of a residential property, so that when the parent passes away, the adult child can acquire the property immediately. In this case the adult child is the trustee and would be the one required to file the UHT return. 
  • If a person sold a residential property in 2022, but the land title did not change to the name of the purchaser until 2023.  
    • In this example, the person who sold the property would still have legal ownership until the land title changed. Therefore, the seller of the property would be considered the bare trustee and would be required to file a UHT return. 
  • An individual owned a residential property and transferred it to a corporation owned by that individual. If the land title of the property did not change to the corporation, then the individual would still have legal title of the property. This would create a bare trust, and that individual would have to file a UHT return. 

What are other situations where a UHT return may be required?

  • In certain circumstances, co-owners of a residential property may be required to file a UHT return. 
  • The owners of farmland on a which a residential property is located may be required to file a UHT return.

When is the return due?

For the 2022 calendar year, this return is due no later than April 30, 2023 

I have to file a UHT return; will I have to pay tax?

There are many exemptions that will prevent a person or a corporation from having to pay UHT. Provided that you meet at least one exemption, you will not have to pay UHT.

However, even if you are not required to pay UHT, you still must file a UHT return.

Our staff at HLH can help determine whether you meet one of these exemptions. 

Are there any penalties associated with this return?

Yes. If an individual is required to file a UHT return and it is filed after April 30, 2023, the individual will be subjected to a minimum $5,000 penalty. 

Similarly, if a corporation was required to file a UHT return and it is filed late, the corporation will be subjected to a minimum $10,000 penalty.

I believe I may have to file a UHT return, but I am not sure what my first steps are. What can I do?

If you think you must file a UHT return, or have any questions regarding the UHT in general, please contact our office and our staff can help guide you through this process.  

Affordability Payments

Affordability Payments

Who is Eligible for Affordability Payments? 

There are two general groups of Alberta residents who are eligible for these support payments: 

  • Families with children under 18 years of age. 
  • Residents who are 65 years of age or older. 

Additionally, both groups must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the affordability payments: 

  • The adjusted 2021 household income of the applicants must be below $180,000. 
  • The applicants must be Alberta residents as of November 30th, 2022. 
HLH-Edmonton-affordability payments

Affordability Payments

Eligible families will receive $100 per month for each child under 18 from January 2023 – June 2023 ($600 for each child). 

Residents 65 years of age or older who successfully apply will receive $100 each month from January 2023 – June 2023 ($600 total). 

What Happens if Someone Applies Late?

If an applicant was eligible to receive affordability payments but applies late, the individual will still receive payments retroactive to the first month of eligibility. 

What Happens if a Family has a Child that Turns 18 Sometime Between Jan-Jun 2023? What Happens if a Family has a Baby During this Time?

The family should be eligible for payments for every month up until the child turns 18, then the payments for that child will stop. 

If a family has a baby during the January – June 2023 period, that family will be eligible for payments starting in the month the baby was born.

What Happens if a Person Turns 65 During this Time?

The individual would begin to receive payments starting in the month he/she turns 65. 

Seniors on Income Support

If a senior is eligible for the affordability payments and is already receiving AISH, Income Support, Alberta Seniors Benefit, or other supports through PDD, there is no need for the senior to apply to receive affordability payments. 

Deadline to Apply

June 30th, 2023.


What Does a Person Need to Apply?
  • Valid identification
  • SIN
  • Banking information

Note: Provided that an applicant has filed a 2021 tax return, the Alberta government will calculate the adjusted household income amount, so there is no need to provide a tax return when applying. 

Other Notes:

  • Affordability payments are not taxable. 
  • To apply online, the applicant must have a verified Alberta.ca account. 
  • Most Albertans will receive payments at the end of the month in which their application is successfully completed. 
  • Payments are retroactive to the first month of eligibility. 
  • Apply anytime between January 18 to June 30, 2023. 
  • Applicants who are 65 years of age or older and are a caregiver for a child under 18 years of age are eligible for both the $100 payment per month as a senior, and $100 per month per child as a caregiver. 
  • Applicants who are receiving AISH, Income Support, Alberta Seniors Benefits, or PDD and have dependent children under 18 will need to apply to receive payments for the children under their care.

How to Apply

To learn more about the program and to apply online, please follow this link to the Alberta government website: https://www.alberta.ca/affordability-payments.aspx 

Alternatively, applications can be made in person at an Alberta Registry Agent office. 



Sharpen Up Your Meetings

Sharpen Up Your Meetings

meeting“The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished.” – Tim Cook 

Try this at your next meeting: look around the room and add up the hourly salary of each attendee in your head. If you don’t know, then ballpark it. Add about 25% for payroll extras.

Get an hourly figure in your head. Don’t be surprised if it flirts with four figures per hour for larger meetings. Add another 25% for prep, follow up, and loss of whatever productive momentum they have before the meeting that they’ll need to regenerate.

Bottom line: meetings are costly. And when they’re called over something trivial or spent hearing personal anecdotes, they can be painful. 

You can’t run your business without them, but you can make them more cost-effective. Let’s talk about that.


Morning Stand-Ups

These are quick, regular meetings designed to improve communication while cutting down on overall meeting times. Here’s how they work:

  • Attendees come together at the same time daily, usually once everyone has arrived and settled into work. Meetings may be with the whole team, based around stakeholders for a single project, or both.
  • They last about 15 minutes and no one sits. Once someone gets settled into the comfy chairs the productivity plunges. Keep the coffee hot and the energy kinetic. Just the act of standing up increases meeting efficiency by 34%.
  • Assemble around a whiteboard and outline your agenda. Jot down key bullets while making it clear who is accountable to each.

We at HLH have had a 15-minute standup meeting each and every day since 2016. These meetings start at 9:15 sharp, and they always follow the same format. We rotate the chair to include each and every employee, partner, and principal. Our agenda is straightforward; you can download our template here to use for your own standup meetings. The agenda has evolved a little over the years, but the meetings aren’t going anywhere—we love them!



Without an agenda, chaos will reign. Your focus will vary from meeting to meeting based on your business cycles, but a solid, reliable agenda will keep people on track.

Give it three basic parts:

Update, Plan, Issues

  • Update: What has happened since your last meeting? What are you working on/ wins/lessons/etc?
  • Plan: What are they working on? What needs to happen before the next meeting?
  • Issues: What are the roadblocks for them? What resources do they need to address those challenges to ensure they have the deliverables ready?

Ensure everyone talks at least once, even if their comments are quick. Make it known that phones stay in pockets or at desks during these meetings. If these meetings are going to be effective, we need deep focus.


Keep it Moving 

While you don’t need a chairperson barking Robert’s Rules, you should have 1 person delegated to keep attendees on-track and on-topic. If a manager starts to wander into political musings or vaguely related personal anecdotes, this person will firmly but politely move the meeting forward. 

You should have an agenda that’s hard to get through in 15 minutes. That will help keep the urgency of rhythm. 

Make sure the taskmaster is someone who is not only time-efficient but also respected by the attendees. The last thing you need is for these meetings to breed resentment. 


Avoid Sidebars 

Meetings are effective when the most attendees are engaged for the most amount of time.Meetings are effective when the most attendees are engaged for the most amount of time. Make sure topics are relevant for everyone. 

If an attendee raises a topic that relates to only one or two others in the room, acknowledge it and carve space for the involved parties to discuss further after the meeting. If you let them spend five minutes resolving, you’ve lost both time and focus from the others.



You probably have people working from home. Your 15-minute stand-ups are vital for remote workers because feeling integrated is such a challenge.

Don’t just put them on speaker where everyone forgets about them. Get a screen on a stand so everyone can see their video feed. If it’s audio-only, they’ll stay in their bathrobe and tune out. It’s a workday, so motivate them to look the part and come prepared to see their peers. 

If morning meetings are part of your regular routine, check to make sure they’re still working how they should. If not, now is an ideal time to build a space where your team can come together to improve the day-to-day processes that help keep your lights on.

Avoiding Business Disruption This Winter

Avoiding Business Disruption This Winter

HLH-Edmonton-avoid-disruption-open-sign“It’s about making choices. Some are easy. Some are hard. And some will make you question everything.” – Tim Cook 

With COVID-19 circulating freely, many of us have felt the sting directly in our staffing levels already. Those who haven’t should expect it this winter. There’s a vaccine on the horizon, but months of escalating numbers to endure before that. 

You need to be prepared to keep your businesses running as more staff go into isolation than ever before. You’ve probably built a Business Continuity plan already, even if informally, but is it aggressive enough to get you through the next few months? 

Here’s how to take your Business Continuity planning to the next level and make sure that the winter of 20/21 doesn’t force your business to a standstill.



You hire people for certain skills, and the better they are at those skills, the harder it is to cross-train others to step in. That being said, keeping your business running is going to involve a little triage of your team’s essential skills. 

Even your most specialized employees aren’t using specialized skills all the time. Chances are that another employee who uses similar processes could step in with minimal training. Go through your roster of key employees and identify who else on your team shares core competencies—or at least the ones that you can’t live without. Making these matches will help you maintain the bulk of employee operations should anyone need to isolate. 


Set-Up Now for Remote

By now, the people who fit easily into the remote work paradigm have already made the leap and are already set up in their living rooms. Or, depending on your business, perhaps they’ve already done their stint at home and have since returned to the office. But what about the people who don’t seem to fit into remote work.

You may have employees who seem too tied-in with their teams or in-house systems to be able to work from home. However, while it’s possible some tasks need to be done in your facility, chances are that the majority of what they do can be remote.

This doesn’t mean that you need to send them home. It means that you prep them for remote work so, should they need to isolate, you can make it happen seamlessly. There will be some disruption by having them out of the office, but the diligence beforehand will minimize the disturbance. Prepare them for the possibility of remote work by:

  • Setting up software on employee laptops that allows them to access and modify files on your office’s server
  • Ensuring all team members are trained and comfortable using video conferencing apps, like Zoom or Google Meet
  • Documenting protocols for the team to follow should some or all team members need to work from home, i.e. continuing morning standup meetings via video call


Get Paid 

Business survival is about liquidity. For those businesses who have already eaten their reserves (and, sadly, there are many), the last bastion of liquidity is your customers.

Whether they’re overdue by a day or a month, get on the phone with them. Skip the emails—they’re too easy to ignore. You have a relationship with them and this is the time to level with them person-to-person about the need to pay their bill on time.


Identify Key Services


We follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of revenue comes from 20% of your offerings. If your business has to contract due to staff shortages, the 20% is your “Alamo.” Those are the services and products that tend to be in the center of your wheelhouse and which the most amount of staff can fulfill (the other 80% tend to be specialized to a few people). 

Identify this all-important 20% of your offerings now so that if you lose enough staff that you need to cut back services, you can do so in a tactical and controlled way without chomping into your bread and butter. 

We’re all waiting with bated breath for this seemingly endless storm to be over. However, scientific innovation is giving us a light at the end of a long tunnel. While the ride is far from over, let’s allow these breakthroughs to act as a source of optimism and a reason to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.


Here’s How to Use Empty Office Space

Here’s How to Use Empty Office Space

empty office spaceIs your office feeling a little sparse lately? A lot of business people are finding themselves standing in the middle of empty desks, sometimes row upon row, while their intended occupants are working from their kitchen tables.

While the work is getting done elsewhere, you’re still paying for this space. Is there a better way to use it?  

Are Offices Extinct?

Remote work has been a slow-burn trend for years, and the pandemic has poured gasoline on it. A massive percentage of professional people will be working from home for the foreseeable future. But in the process of exploding remote work, COVID-19 has also revealed some of its fatal flaws. The pandemic has demonstrated that, while that office space might change, office workplaces are here to stay.

Not every team can effectively collaborate from home. Training is difficult, and there’s little of the office camaraderie that comes from daily familiarity. Furthermore, anyone who has been to a virtual conference or trade show knows how useful they are (or, rather, aren’t). 

The office workplace is far from extinct, but how we think about our space is changing in the short term—and perhaps in the long term, as well.


Changing Expectations 

Recent decades have seen a trend, largely driven by the tech industry, away from the segmented office style towards open concept spaces where people can collaborate freely. With the focus on teamwork, sharing, and public spaces, this has also allowed for a more densely-packed workplace. 

The bad news for those with an open concept office is that you’ve probably had a steeper adaptation curve of cleaning and distancing than the cubicle guys. The good news is that you have many more options in terms of how you can use those big empty spaces.

Option 1: Invest in Morale

Working from home trades perceived safety for the ability to work together face-to-face. Those returning to the office may be looking to get some of that in-person interaction back.

Multipurpose Areas can build team morale, facilitate collaboration, and inject dynamism into the workplace.

Multipurpose areas can build morale, facilitate higher quality work via collaboration, and inject dynamism into the office place. You have the space and creating more of these areas can pay off nicely. 

Move some desks, clear a larger space, and create a multipurpose area for safe collaboration. Done right, it could be a guest speaking area, an open-air boardroom, or a training hub. 

To ensure your team is comfortable using the space, make communal surfaces as minimal and simple as possible for easy wiping. Space chairs out for distancing or, even better, skip the chairs and use this as an opportunity to embrace stand up meetings.


Option 2: Make it Flexible

The future of the office is flexibility. Many employees will return looking to scratch their social and collaborative itch but will still want the convenience of working from home. Build that option into your workplace. 

“Hot desks” are shared workspaces wherein 2 or 3 people can use it when they’re in the office. While publicly touched surfaces are a no-go, offer the empty desk only and require use of their laptop from home. Ensure they wipe down the work space each evening.

Setting this up could open up workplaces reliably for the long term and allow you to create more permanent multipurpose areas. 


Option 3: Downsize

This is more a question of financials than personnel. If revenue won’t be flowing again for the foreseeable future, two main options are:

rent unused space or negotiate with your landlord

  • Rent the unused space. Even with a flooded market and lower-than-average rent prices, you can still bring in some revenue and potentially create some smart partnerships with other organizations.
  • Negotiate with your landlord. See if you can get a decrease in rent prices or if you can give up your space in favour of a smaller one that could meet your current needs. Depending on your landlord, they might even have a space available that would suit the new you perfectly. 

If you’re holding onto empty office space, with no immediate plans to use its full capacity, ask yourself if this has anything to do with pride or sentimentality. Now is the time to look inward and figure out what your business really needs. Talk to your team. If it’s time to let the space go, make the hard – but smart – choice together.

Are Your Statements Making You Vulnerable?

Are Your Statements Making You Vulnerable?

sorting through balance sheets“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

2020 has been a crucible for businesses of all sizes. Alberta businesses know that we’ve been among the hardest hit, with many facing a long winter on the brink of insolvency.

The Federal government has been coming to our aid with blunt, expensive tools meant to shore up balance sheets until the revenue returns. 

There’s been an arsenal of relief measures, from the all-important CEWS to the RRRF, BCAP, CEBA, and CERS. There’s been bridge financing, interest-free loans, emergency credit, and support for Northern, Indigenous, and Black-owned businesses.

Chances are that you’ve benefitted or are befitting from one or more of these. They’ve been going on for months, and when a process happens for that long, we’re in danger of thinking of it as “baked in” to your everyday operations.

But here’s the difficult question of the day: Are you prepared for when the money tap turns off?


Statements Matter

If a random stranger donates $10,000 to your business, you don’t blend it into your general revenue. You bracket it out as extraordinary income because it was a “one-off” and you can’t make reliable business decisions based on that.

Random strangers in Ottawa have been giving you gifts for months. They’re one-offs, and they’re recurring, and that makes them dangerous.

After many months, these funds will bake themselves into our business model if we’re not careful. It’s a psychological trick: when a process recurs, it doesn’t take long to assume it will continue to occur.


why you should keep extraordinary income separate

You can fight this creeping assumption by keeping extraordinary income where it belongs: outside your labour, overhead, or other “above the line” rows. If it becomes invisible and lost in other numbers, you’ll start to subconsciously let it affect your planning.


Plan Without It

The brutal honesty comes when you sit down to plan how you’ll move forward once the money taps are off. Imagining our business – the one we’ve invested years of our mental and resource equity into – in mortal danger is one of the hardest things we can do. And government payments make it easier to keep looking the other way. 

After all, the money is right there on the balance sheet. 

Go into your statements, grind your teeth, and remove all the government dollars.

As hard as it is, it’s vital to chart the financial future of your business with no government help. Go into your statements, grind your teeth, and remove all the government dollars. The revised bottom line will be what will happen when (not if) that money stops flowing.

Now is the time to make the decisions that need to happen to make your business independently sustainable in the long term. Find the waste, rework the business model, make the needed cuts. Once you do that, you’ll sleep better at night knowing that, even if your business looks different than it did a year ago, you control your own financial destiny.