Common-law status as per CRA

We are often asked about marital status as it pertains to filing personal tax returns. The main topic of confusion relates to common-law status.

The definitions for marital status are laid out by CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) on their website. The following definition is for common-law status:

Common-law partner
This applies to a person who is not your spouse (see above), with whom you are living in a conjugal relationship, and to whom at least one of the following situations applies. He or she:

a) has been living with you in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months;

b) is the parent of your child by birth or adoption; or

c) has custody and control of your child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support.

In addition, an individual immediately becomes your common-law partner if you previously lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months and you have resumed living together in such a relationship. Under proposed changes, this condition will no longer exist. The effect of this proposed change is that a person (other than a person described in b) or c)) will be your common-law partner only after your current relationship with that person has lasted at least 12 continuous months. This proposed change will apply to 2001 and later years.”

For more details on this topic, please see CRA’s website.

However, the Income Tax Act does not define “conjugal relationship”. This is a term associated with family law. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) therefore follows the courts decision of what a conjugal relationship is or is not. Some factors the courts use to determine if two people are in a conjugal relationship including living arrangements, exclusivity, level of intimacy, performance of household chores, community attitude and conduct, financial interdependence, and attitude and conduct towards children. In the courts the factors of each relationship are analyzed and are weighed differently depending on the circumstances. It is possible to be in a conjugal relationship without sexual relations. (Your Estate Matters – July 2008).