Speculation tax declaration packages on their way

Starting in the second week of February, homeowners in Greater Victoria will start receiving “declaration” packages and a prompt to claim an exemption from the speculation and vacancy tax.

Homeowners in areas where the tax applies — Greater Victoria, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Kelowna and West Kelowna — will then have until March 31 to claim their exemption.

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The province says more than 99.9 per cent of all B.C. residents are exempt from the tax, which targets properties left vacant for months at a time.

Homeowners can complete a declaration online (gov.bc.ca/spectax) as soon as they receive their package in the mail.

In Greater Victoria, just over 1,400 property owners must pay the tax, while more than 180,000 are exempt, the B.C. Finance Ministry said.

In 2019, the tax raised $6.6 million in Greater Victoria and $88 million across the ­province.

The tax, introduced in the February 2018 budget, was ­created to reduce the number of empty homes and help deal with B.C.’s shortage of affordable housing by encouraging owners of vacant units to put them into the rental market or sell them.

The tax rate is two per cent of a property’s assessed value for foreign owners and satellite families and 0.5 per cent for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Owners are exempt from the tax if it is their principal residence, they rent it at least six months of the year, they are disabled, the property was just inherited, it’s valued at less than $150,000, or a person was away and it was vacant due to ­medical reasons, residential care, work or spousal separation.

All owners on the title of a property must complete the declaration in order to claim an exemption or to determine eligibility for a tax credit. ­Corporations must also ­complete a declaration for all residential properties in taxable regions.

If owners are not exempt, they must pay the assessed amount by July 2.

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