Owners of vacation properties captured by B.C.’s new empty-home tax will begin receiving letters this week telling them how they must declare they are exempt from the tax.
The deadline for registering to avoid the 0.5 per cent additional property tax is March 31, according to the finance ministry, which emphasizes that the pared-down tax will apply to fewer than one per cent of the property owners in the project.
All property owners in the affected areas should receive the letters by Feb. 28. They will have to register to avoid the tax by the deadline of March 31 or be billed on their property taxes for a vacant home. Registration can be done at a new website, www.gov.bc.ca/spectax or by phoning 1-833-554-2323. The registration process is expected to take up to 20 minutes, and those who are not exempted have until July 2 to pay the tax.
After protests from urban municipalities and extended negotiations between the NDP government and the B.C. Green Party, the property tax now applies only to Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and the municipalities of Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kelowna and West Kelowna. The rate was reduced to 0.5 per cent for all Canadian owners at the insistence of B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, who earlier objected to it being applied to vacation homes in the Gulf Islands.
Within those communities, identified as having low vacancy rates, owners of additional homes that are not their private residences can exempt themselves from the tax by renting it out at least six months of the year.
“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,” the ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.