B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver announce rate reduction for Canadian citizens paying new property tax on homes empty six months of the year or more, October 2018. (Black Press files)

12,000 property owners paying B.C. speculation tax so far

Mostly foreign owners, ‘satellite families,’ high-end properties

The B.C. government estimates it is owed $115 million for the first year of its speculation and vacancy tax on homes in urban areas.

As of July 4, there were 12,029 property owners paying the additional property tax, the finance ministry reported Thursday. Of those, 4,585 are foreign owners and 3,241 are what the province calls “satellite families” who live in B.C. while the main income earner is a foreign resident.

There are 2,410 B.C. residents currently assessed for the tax, for secondary homes in the designated cities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District around Victoria.

The province sent out 1.6 million tax notices to property owners in affected cities early this year, requiring every owner listed on title to register and either claim an exemption or pay the tax. About 23,000 registrations are still not accounted for, including owners who may be deceased or out of the country.

The figures released Thursday are for 2018, where the tax was due by July 2, 2019. All taxes collected for the first year are assessed at 0.5 per cent of property value, but foreign owners will soon pay four times that much unless they can find an exemption.

Foreign owners and satellite families pay the highest rate this year, two per cent of property value. The rate for B.C. residents who are not considered satellite families and Canadians living outside B.C. is 0.5 per cent, after the B.C. Green Party refused to support charging a higher rate to people from Alberta and other provinces who have vacation properties in B.C.

RELATED: B.C. Liberal leader vows to scrap speculation tax

RELATED: Speculation tax holdouts should talk to city hall: James

The finance ministry says the first-year revenue is higher than expected, partly because the tax is being paid on higher-value properties. The average assessed value of properties subject to the tax for 2018-19 is $1.62 million, while the average value for the cities where it applies is $1.11 million.

The provincial speculation tax is in addition to the empty homes tax assessed by the City of Vancouver. The B.C. version sparked a political battle, first over rural areas with vacation properties that were originally included, and then over the rate and requirement to occupy or rent out properties at least six months of the year to be exempt.

Finance Minister Carole James promised to meet with mayors of the affected communities this summer to discuss hardship cases and other exemptions. Those meetings are now scheduled to take place in September.

@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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