James hints B.C. speculation tax being redrawn for vacation homes implications

Carole James, speculation tax, BC
BC finance minister Carole James. Photo by mattjiggins via Flickr Commons.

British Columbia’s finance minister is dropping hints the blueprint for the province’s proposed speculation tax is being redrawn after a homeowner backlash.

Carole James introduced the speculation tax in last month’s budget, but details were scarce other than saying it will come later this year and it targets foreign and domestic buyers who do not pay B.C. income tax.

She said Wednesday concerns about unexpected tax increases from some B.C. property owners with two properties are being heard.

The homeowners have been telling the government about fears their vacation homes will be hit with large tax bills despite promises of offsetting income tax credits.

“Details to come, as I said then (on budget day),” said James. “We’re working on those details now, including all of the issues that people have been raising. They are on our table. They are part of our considerations.”

The details in the budget pegged the proposed speculation tax at $5 for every $1,000 of assessed value this year and rising to $20 for every $1,000 of assessed value in 2019.

But the budget was not clear about British Columbia residents with vacation or second homes in the province.

Carole James, speculation tax, BC
Victoria skyline at twilight. Photo by Brandon Godfrey via Wikimedia Commons.

“The new annual property tax will target foreign and domestic home owners who do not pay income tax in B.C., including those who leave their homes vacant,” said the budget documents.

James said the government is preparing the final details for the speculation tax, and vacation property owners from B.C. is one of the tax issues being reviewed.

“We’re aiming to make sure that we get speculators out of the market,” she said. “We don’t want people treating our housing as a stock market.”

James said earlier the tax measures in her budget are part of the government’s aim to improve housing affordability for thousands of people, including seniors forced to live in their vehicles and young professionals who refuse jobs in B.C. because they can’t find a place to live.

The proposed speculation tax will not apply to every region of the province, targeting Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Victoria area, Nanaimo Regional District, Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the minority New Democrat government appears to be making up tax policy on the fly.

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