British Columbia Legislature (File Photo)

In a move to begin the process of implementing British Columbia’s new and controversial Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT), the province will soon be collecting registrations from property owners who wish to declare themselves exempt from the tax.

Between January 18th and February 28th, 2019, people who own property in areas subjected to the SVT will be sent a letter detailing how to register for the exemption.

The letter will also include unique declaration and identification codes, and will require the owner to enter their date of birth and social insurance number, among other pieces of information.

Immunity from the tax must be claimed by following the instructions before March 31st, 2019.

“By completing the declaration and registering to claim an exemption, British Columbians will help identify speculators and empty homes, allowing the government to crack down on speculation and make housing more affordable,” reads a statement from the BC Ministry of Finance.

“Over 99% of British Columbians will be exempt, but owners must register to claim their exemption.”

Municipalities subjected to the Speculation and Vacancy Tax includes:

  • Capital Regional District (excluding Salt Spring Island, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area and the Southern Gulf Islands)
  • Nanaimo
  • Lantzville
  • Metro Vancouver Regional District (excluding Bowen Island, the Village of Lions Bay and Electoral Area A, but including the University of British Columbia and the University Endowment Lands)
  • Abbotsford
  • Mission
  • Chilliwack
  • Kelowna
  • West Kelowna

All property owners living in these areas are expected to fill out a declaration form. If a property has more than one owner, each person has to fill out their own declaration form – this includes spouses and common law partners.

Those who do not fill out their exemption claims by April 1st, 2019 will receive a tax notice of assessment. Moreover, owners whose property is not exempt from the tax have until July 2nd 2019, to pay their assessed tax.

If you own property in the aforementioned areas and have not received a registration package by the end of February, contact the speculation and vacancy tax call centre at 1 833 554-2323 (toll-free Canada/U.S.) or 604 660-2421 (international).

Brief history and overview of the SVT

British Columbia’s new speculation tax is a part of the NDP government’s 30-point plan in the 2018 budget meant to ease the housing affordability crisis in the province.

The SVT is meant to target people who own secondary housing units in designated urban areas and leave them vacant for long periods of time, causing inflation in real estate prices.

“We are going after speculators who are clearly taking advantage of the market, leaving homes vacant and driving up prices,” said Minister of Finance, Carole James in a press release in October 2018.

Specifications and amendments to the original tax were announced after considerable protests arose from developers and people – not speculators – who own secondary vacation homes.

However, not everyone was satisfied with these amendments:

“After trying to implement taxes by trial and error, the NDP are now scrambling to come up with a plan,” says BC Liberal leader, Andrew Wilkinson.

“The updated version of this tax still doesn’t focus on speculators who are flipping homes and condos. Instead, the NDP introduced arbitrary boundary changes to exempted areas that appear to be politically motivated.”

Click here to read more about B.C.’s new speculation and vacancy tax.