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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Volunteers from the Elk River Alliance cleared 14 car batteries from the Elk River near Elkford this week. (Photo contributed)
Elk River Alliance to move to more holistic environmental monitoring

The details of the ERA’s 2021 program will be discussed at the AGM next month

The Kitimat RCMP responded to false alarms, an apartment fire and more between Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Sparwood backs campaign to study Surrey RCMP impact

The City of Surrey is home to the largest RCMP detachment in the province

Brent Bidston is the president of Angel Flight East Kootenay. Black Press file photo.
RDEK ponders funding for Angel Flight East Kootenay

The district is considering funding for operations or to eventually help acquire a larger plane

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

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

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read