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 victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Beautiful flowers spring up on Thetis Island during February. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)
Weather conditions cover the full spectrum in February

The only thing missing from the region was a more summerlike feel

Police are investigating after a man was killed at a home on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police investigating early-morning murder in Duncan

One arrested after man killed at Cowichan Lake Road home

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

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

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Most Read