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

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service hires first three inspectors as ‘next layer of leadership’

Three men have more than 80 years of combined experience

Whalley Chiefs general manager Paul Hargreaves in the stands at the club's diamond at Whalley Athletic Park. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey baseball clubs prep for spring games as COVID threatens another season

‘I’m really excited about this year, because we have the troops in place,’ Whalley Chiefs GM says

TEASER - SAGAís Gift Shop Manager Barbie Warwick wearing The Summons while sketching in Facing Time exhibit. Photo by Pardeep Singh.jpg
‘The Summons’ face masks created as fundraiser for Surrey Art Gallery Association

Image of magnolia flower and poetry printed on specially designed mask

An officer collects forensic evidence from a police SUV following the July 18, 2015 incident that ended in the police-shooting death of Hudson Brooks in South Surrey. (File photo)
Experts discuss toxicology, use-of-force at inquest into fatal 2015 police shooting in South Surrey

Proceedings could lead to recommendations for preventing similar deaths

Delta police have arrested a suspect in the theft of a custom-made wheelchair hoist stolen from a Ladner condo complex’s underground parkade on Dec. 15, 2020. (Debbie J Green/Facebook photos)
Delta police arrest suspect in theft of custom wheelchair hoist

The device was stolen Dec. 15, 2020 in Ladner and later recovered, stripped and damaged, in Surrey

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

RCMP members responded to calls of a man-down at Landsdowne mall in Richmond Wednesday afternoon. The 40-year-old was suffering from stab wounds. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man in critical condition following afternoon attack outside Richmond mall: RCMP

The Vancouver resident was found lying injured outside Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

A bus rider uses a support bar with an anti-microbial copper coating, newly implemented as part of a TransLink pilot program. (TransLink)
‘Self-disinfecting’ copper coming to more of TransLink’s fleet to fight against COVID-19

The transit authority says tests showed the surface was 99.9% effective in killing pathogens

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

Death not considered suspicious, said Chilliwack RCMP

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Most Read