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Two taxes have B.C. property owners scratching their heads

Last Updated Feb 3, 2019 at 7:18 pm PDT


Property owners are confusing two new taxes

The City of Burnaby has had so many calls, they're starting to track them

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Do you know the difference between Vancouver’s empty homes tax and the province’s speculation tax? As the deadline for both approaches, confusion is building.

Vancouver’s empty homes tax, now in it’s second year, applies to homes not lived in half of the year, but all homeowners in the city need to submit a declaration by Feb. 4.

Meanwhile, British Columbia’s speculation tax, new this year, applies to most homeowners, including ones living in cities in Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and the North Shore. While the province says most homeowners will be exempt, all need to submit a declaration by March 31.

RELATED: Councillor proposes five per cent empty homes tax in White Rock

Noreen Kassam with the City of Burnaby says confused homeowners have been calling the city a lot in recent days. They’re mixing up the two taxes and thinking Vancouver’s empty homes tax applies to them.

“Even though we’re in Burnaby, they think that this is related either the full region or to various municipal government, she says. “But really, the empty homes tax is specific to Vancouver.”

The city has been getting so many calls they’re starting to track it.

“We are getting lots of calls,” Kassam says. “We haven’t tracked exactly how many we’ve been getting, but we’re starting to track it now.”

Richmond has also been seeing more calls. So has Coquitlam.

The City of Coquitlam reports they’ve had about 50 calls and in-person inquiries about the speculation tax this week as people received their notices.

Who needs to pay Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax?

The Empty Homes Tax only applies to people who own residential properties in the City of Vancouver.

Most homeowners won’t have to pay the tax, as long as the property is their primary residence, or they live there for at least six months of the year. However, one owner of every residential property will have to submit a property status declaration to determine if the property is eligible for that tax.

RELATED: Vancouver to review impact of empty homes tax

This year, people who own empty homes will have to pay 1 per cent of the property’s assessed taxable value from 2018.

You must submit your declaration by Feb. 4, 2019, and there is no way to have your declaration time extended.

Find out how to file your declaration on the City of Vancouver’s website. Read FAQ here.

Who needs to pay the speculation tax?

The speculation and vacancy tax is an annual tax coming from the provincial government paid on residential properties in some regions of B.C., including municipalities in the Metro Vancouver Regional District, as well as Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack. A list of those regions can be found here.

Everyone who owns or co-owns a residential property — including spouses — in those areas has to complete a declaration form so the province can determine if they are required to or are exempted from paying the tax. Forms are due March 31, 2019. Find that form here.

People who live in their homes year-round, or who rent out their properties for at least three months of the year won’t have to pay, but they will still have to submit their forms to make sure they aren’t held responsible for paying the tax. Read about other exemptions here.

If you are required to pay the tax, it will be due July 2, 2019.

The tax is meant to discourage housing speculation and from leaving homes empty in major urban centres. Read FAQ here.