Foreign homebuyers' tax exemption comes too late for some

Nic Benner says he's glad the government has had a change of heart about the foreign homebuyers' tax, but it comes a little too late for him. He's now hoping the province will make reparations to those hurt by the tax's implementation.

Now that premier says tax will be changed, one resident hurt by it hopes for compensation

Some foreign workers living and paying taxes in B.C. say they hope the province will provide some recompense to those people who were hurt by the foreign homebuyers' tax, now that the premier says changes are coming. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Nic Benner says he's glad the government has had a change of heart about the foreign homebuyers' tax, but it comes a little too late for him. 

An American citizen, Benner works as a business analyst in Burnaby, B.C. 

In May 2016, he put a down payment on a townhouse under construction in Langley. 

He then went home to Colorado to tie up loose ends, and he, his wife and their four children starting driving to their new life in B.C. — never expecting a sudden law could disrupt their plans.

"During our trip, we were informed the home that we were expecting to move into within a few months of arriving here was going to be problematic because of this new law that they'd just passed," said Benner. 

American Nic Benner wants the province to provide some reparation to him and to others who were hurt by the implementation of the foreign homebuyers' tax in August 2016. (CBC)

He couldn't get the deal closed before the deadline and he couldn't afford the extra 15 per cent he was now expected to pay. 

"I don't know very many people who are regular, working-class family people who can just come up with an extra 80 grand out of the blue in a couple months," said Benner. 

Benner says he met with the housing minister to try to argue his case but with no luck. 

In the end, he had to back out of the contract and lost his $25,000 down payment. He and his family are now renting a home in Langley. 

Tax 'effectively cut back the excessive demand'

Benner was surprised to hear that Premier Christy Clark declared the province will be making changes to the foreign homebuyers' tax that will grant an exemption to people in his situation — those who are here with a work permit and who will be paying taxes in B.C. 

Clark made the comments to reporters while at the Lunar New Year parade in Vancouver Sunday.

A formal announcement has not yet been made, but in an email statement, a spokesperson for the finance ministry says the tax was intended for speculators.

Premier Christy Clark marched in the Lunar New Year Parade in Vancouver on Sunday, Jan. 29. She told reporters the province would make an exemption to the foreign homebuyers' tax so those with work permits who are paying taxes in B.C. will not have to pay the tax. (CBC)

"Now that the additional tax has effectively cut back the excessive demand we were seeing last year, we are in a position to make the adjustments necessary to help ensure we can keep attracting highly skilled workers," said the email. 

The NDP's housing critic, David Eby, urged the government to make this kind of change last summer.

He says he's glad it's happening, but he thinks there is a lingering question about those who have already been impacted.

"We said come here, join us, help build our province, and then we said, oh, there's a secret tax we didn't tell you about, we're going to take $10,000 or $15,000 or more from you. I think the government should be looking at giving money back, in fairness to those people," said Eby.  

'I sure could use to have that back'

Benner agrees. He's already written a letter to the premier and the housing minister. 

"I hope that now that they've changed their hearts and gone back to what I believe are true Canadian principles that they will try to resolve this in a good way.

"But yeah, $25,000 is not an insignificant sum and I sure could use to have that back including whatever else was done to harm me."

Province will 'examine ways to provide relief'

In the emailed statement, the Finance Ministry says, "We have been asked to examine ways to provide relief from the additional property transfer tax for those who are coming to B.C. on work permits to live and contribute to our province."