Definition of Common Law Spouse

Volume No. 03-30

“Living together makes you married for tax purposes..”

Being a common law spouse has significant tax implications. Where individuals are spouses, there is a rollover provision on any transactions between them. Attribution rules apply to reallocate income on transfers to spouses. The determination of affiliated persons and associated corporations depends on whether individuals are spouses. Lastly, many credits such as the GST credit or Child Tax Benefits are based on family income which includes the income of a common law spouse.

A common law spouse is now defined as a person who cohabits in a conjugal relationship and

  1. has cohabited throughout the 12-month period that ends at that time; or
  2. would be the parent of a child of whom the other person is a parent.

The definition goes on to state that where persons cohabit in a conjugal relationship, they are deemed to be cohabiting unless they were living separate and apart for a period of 90 days because of a breakdown of the conjugal relationship.

Therefore, if people were considered to be common law spouses and are separated for more than 90 days simply because one is travelling or has other responsibilities, they do not cease to be spouses.


TAX TIP OF THE WEEK is provided as a free service to clients and friends of the Tax Specialist Group member firms. The Tax Specialist Group is a national affiliation of firms who specialize in providing tax consulting services to other professionals, businesses and high net worth individuals on Canadian and international tax matters and tax disputes.

The material provided in Tax Tip of the Week is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date it is written. Tax laws are complex and are subject to frequent change. Professional advice should always be sought before implementing any tax planning arrangements. Neither the Tax Specialist Group nor any member firm can accept any liability for the tax consequences that may result from acting based on the contents hereof.