British Columbia

Didn't fill out your form? Expect a speculation tax bill in the mail

Although 94 per cent of B.C. homeowners filled out their B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax form by the March 31st deadline, the remaining four per cent who didn't can expect a bill, even though the province estimates fewer than half are speculators.

96,000 British Columbians did not fill out the exemption form by the March 31st deadline

Six per cent of British Columbians did not opt out of the speculation tax by the March 31st deadline. The province says it will offer a grace period for those who should have but did not fill out the exemption form. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Ninety-four per cent of B.C.'s 1.6 million  homeowners filled out their B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax form by the March 31st deadline and even though that means 96,000 didn't, Finance Minister Carole James says it's still pretty good.

"For a brand new tax that's extraordinary," she said of the return rate.

The government estimates only about a third of those who didn't report are the actual targets of the new tax. As for the other 64,000 who aren't speculators, the province says it will grant them a grace period.

"If people have extenuating circumstances — perhaps they lost the form, or they weren't in town,or they didn't realize both they and their spouse, if they're on the title, had to fill it out — they'll now get a reminder letter," said James.

Minister will meet with mayors

There are still many who oppose the speculation and vacancy tax altogether, which was introduced to cool B.C.'s hot housing market

It applies to people who own vacant properties in major urban centres where home prices and rents have skyrocketed out of reach for many residents and is designed to turn empty homes into housing.

Foreign homeowners are required to pay two per cent of the assessed value of their home, while Canadians will have to pay 0.5 per cent.

Some communities are exempt, including Whistler and Harrison Hot Springs. But others argue they shouldn't have to pay the speculation tax either.

Belcarra is one community fighting the speculation tax. Many residents claim they're not able to rent out their vacant properties and shouldn't have to pay. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

Belcarra's mayor has long insisted residents in his tiny community are being unfairly targeted because many simply can't rent out their places.

"These are often summer cabins. There's no running water. There's no heat — often water-access only, if not limited access. These people are being forced to sell their cottages because of the speculation tax," said Neil Belenkie.

He's pleaded with the province to exclude his village too, but says the NDP has not yet budged. The finance minister says  she'll meet with mayors this summer to discuss their concerns.

"They'll have a chance to be able to bring their data to the table," James told reporters Wednesday. "Then we'll determine if any changes need to be made."

That meeting is expected to happen at the end of June or beginning of July.

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