Finance Minister Carole James presents her latest budget to the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2019. (B.C. government)

B.C. speculation tax holdouts should talk to city hall, minister says

Deadline to file exemption was April 1, bills start going out in June

Urban B.C. property owners who didn’t get around to filling out their speculation tax declaration form by April 1 can expect to get a bill in June, but they can still register and escape the additional property tax for 2019.

Finance Minister Carole James says there will also be an opportunity for hardship cases to appeal to the local government in affected cities, and those will be reviewed when James meets with mayors this summer.

The finance ministry reports that more than 90 per cent of affected property owners have registered, and most of those won’t pay because they own only their principal residence or rent out additional properties for at least six months of the year.

People who missed the registration deadline can still do the declaration online, or ask questions by emailing spectaxinfo@gov.bc.ca or calling toll-free 1-833-554-2323 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.

Even if they receive a bill because of late registration, they won’t have to pay if they qualify for the exemption, James said. And those who have a case that the tax is an undue burden should take it up with their municipal council.

“That’s exactly why we have meetings with the mayors, so we can have those conversations,” James told reporters at the B.C. legislature Wednesday. “And as I’ve said all along, if changes need to be made, if there’s a good case for taking a look at that, we’ll take a look at that.”

READ MORE: Seniors with unrentable cabins face big tax bills

COLUMN: Negative-option billing for speculation tax unpopular

Waterfront cabin owners from Belcarra came to the B.C. legislature in March to protest that rising land values captured their rustic retreats, despite a lack of road access and water service that makes them unable to be rented.

After protests from urban municipalities and extended negotiations between the NDP government and the B.C. Green Party, the property tax now applies only to Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and the municipalities of Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kelowna and West Kelowna.

The rate was reduced to 0.5 per cent of property value for all Canadian owners at the insistence of B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, who earlier objected to it being applied to rural vacation homes in the Gulf Islands.

For foreign owners and “satellite families,” where much of the household income is not taxed in Canada, the rate is two per cent of the assessed value.


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