Property owners are receiving declaration forms this month for the B.C. speculation and vacancy tax, but fewer than one out of 100 will actually have to pay. (Black Press Media files)

Property owners are receiving declaration forms this month for the B.C. speculation and vacancy tax, but fewer than one out of 100 will actually have to pay. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. speculation and vacancy tax a big job with small returns

Declaration letters on the way for Nanaimo, Victoria, Kelowna

Every property owner in B.C.’s largest urban regions should receive a declaration letter by the end of February for the speculation and vacancy tax that almost none of them will have to pay.

The B.C. government says more than 99 per cent of owners now qualify for one of the exemptions, mostly because they don’t have a second residence. But they must declare their property status each year to avoid being billed, with payment due by July 1.

It’s the third year for the tax, which took in $88 million last year based on being vacant for at least six months of 2019. That’s about half of the revenue that was projected when the tax was imposed, which the finance ministry says is a sign it is working, as vacant homes are being sold or rented to avoid paying it. About 12,000 owners were forced to pay in the first year.

What does it cost to mail out hundreds of thousands of letters, process the responses and bill for the tax? That information is not available, because finance staff and call centres to handle the work are also dealing with other tax issues as well.

“Cost to administer the SVT program are not broken down on a program-by-program basis,” the finance ministry said in a statement to Black Press Media Feb. 9. “We put the necessary staff in place to ensure property owners have the information and support they need, and that people have access to information in multiple languages to complete declarations, seek tax information and claim exemptions.”

Whatever the cost of administering it, the NDP government’s legislation requires that all of the SVT revenue be spent on rental housing for the regions where it is collected. Finance Minister Selina Robinson has carried on her predecessor Carole James’ position that the tax is not for revenue but to maximize rental stock available. The ministry says the urban rental vacancy rate increased slightly in 2019, but by the second half of 2020, the top three most expensive rents in Canada, after Vancouver and Toronto, were Burnaby, Victoria and Kelowna.

RELATED: Speculation tax doesn’t cool B.C.’s hot housing market

RELATED: Strata condo rental bans lose exemption after 2021

Condo owners are allowed to escape the tax if their strata council doesn’t allow rentals, but that exemption expires after this year. For the 2019 property tax year, 331,520 condo properties in all SVT regions declared for the tax, and 3,603 had an owner who claimed a strata rental restriction as the reason for its vacancy.

The ministry cites Capital Regional District results to show the tax is working. The region had 1,036 property owners who had to pay in 2018, and 22 per cent of those owners claimed a tenancy exemption in 2019, with the formerly vacant unit rented for at least half of the year.

The last places to receive declaration letters this year are West Kelowna, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Sooke and the Capital Regional District around Victoria, with mailing dates set for this week. Vancouver mailings are to go out next week, Feb. 12 to 17, while most people in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Metro Vancouver suburbs should have received them by now. Kelowna and West Kelowna are the only urban areas outside southwestern B.C. that are subject to the tax, which is based on low urban rental vacancy rates.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Most Read