Updates to the Speculation and Vacancy Tax: New Exemptions and Extension of Popular Rental Restriction Bylaw and Vacant Land Exemptions

On December 10, 2019, the B.C. government announced new changes to the Speculation and Vacancy Tax (the “SVT”), following its inaugural year[1]. These changes were approved on December 23, 2019.

These changes are timely, as homeowners are set to receive their 2019 tax declaration notices for the SVT in just a few weeks’ time.

As discussed in our previous blog post on the SVT,

the tax rate for properties owned by a foreign owner or a member of a satellite family[2] that are not subject to an exemption will increase to 2% for the 2019 tax year. The general tax rate for non-foreign owners or members of satellite families will remain at 0.5% of a property’s assessed value.

Homeowners may claim two new exemptions to the SVT for the 2019 tax year, and some homeowners may even be eligible to amend their 2018 declarations:

  1. a retroactive exemption is being added for homeowners, and their spouses, who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces when the member is absent from the residential property at any time during the calendar year as a result of the member’s military service; and
  2. a retroactive exemption is being added for homeowners whose properties are accessible only by water for 6 or more consecutive months in a calendar year that is more than 100 meters from an existing road[3].

Additionally, some popular exemptions that were scheduled to be phased out this year will now continue to be available for some homeowners to claim:

  1. the exemption for vacant properties in strata buildings with rental restriction bylaws can now be claimed until the end of 2021 (previously scheduled to be phased out at the end of 2019)[4];
  2. the exemption for vacant strata accommodation properties (i.e. strata hotels) can now be claimed until the end of 2021 (previously scheduled to be phased out at the end of 2019); and
  3. the exemption for vacant land can now be claimed for the 2019 tax year, provided that the land did not include a residence or any part of an improvement intended to be a residence on October 16, 2018 (previously scheduled to be phased out at the end of 2018).

The extension of these exemptions will provide homeowners more time to make important decisions on what to do with their vacant properties.

[1] Please see the Ministry of Finance’s news release here.

[2] Individuals who declare less than 50% of their total combined household income for the year on Canadian income tax returns are considered members of a satellite family. More information can be found on the BC government’s website: www2.gov.bc.ca.

[3] An “existing road” includes a road or driveway, whether paved or unpaved and whether public or private, that is usable by a motor vehicle as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act.

[4] This exemption only applies if the rental restriction strata bylaw was in place on or before October 16, 2018. The extended exemption for the 2020 and 2021 tax years is only available to homeowners who purchased their properties prior to October 16, 2018.

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