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Speculation & Vacancy Tax Forms Arrive

Short timeline means declarations are due by the end of March


For the first time this week, village residents began to find Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT) declaration forms in their mailboxes. The controversial tax has been the subject of much discussion at Council table for much of the past year, as Councillor Marcus Reuter pursued a possible exemption for village residents.


The SVT was first introduced in 2018 by the provincial government as a response to the affordable housing crisis. It was pitched as a means to "help eliminate speculative real estate practices and turn empty units into homes," according to Selina Robinson, former Minister of Finance. The government literature provided with the declaration forms states that more than 99% of property owners in the province will be exempt. Of the ones who are not, the Ministry says that most are foreign owners, satellite families or Canadians who live outside of B.C.


According to the provincial government website, as a community listed in the latest expansion, the SVT will come into force for Lions Bay for the 2023 tax year. This means that home-owner declarations need to be made before the end of March, 2024.


The SVT is distinct from the 'Empty Homes' tax, which has been levied in the City of Vancouver since 2017. Lions Bay residents are not subject to that particular tax.

 

Back in March, 2023 The Watershed posted an article outlining some tax questions from local residents. At the time, Reuter, who was already researching an SVT exemption, expressed a number of concerns. Chief among them was that, contrary to the government's position that the tax is aimed at foreign owners, the tax will most impact seniors, many of whom are snowbirds. He also noted that the tax is intended to increase available housing in urban areas, whereas Lions Bay had been recognized as a rural community.


Reuter offered his report at the October 17 Council meeting, and a unanimous motion was passed to seek an exemption from the tax.


With this week's arrival of the declaration forms in local mailboxes, The Watershed contacted Reuter and the Village Office as to the status of the request. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ross Blackwell confirmed that a letter addressed to the Minister of Finance has been drafted and will likely go out this week. Reuter was unavailable for comment by publication time.


Regardless of the status of the exemption request, it will clearly arrive too late to have an impact this year, as the deadline for completing an exemption declaration is fast approaching. The province requires all homeowners to make a declaration that they live and work in BC, and that the property is their principal residence. The specifics of terms associated with the tax are broken down on a lengthy list of definitions available online.


Residents can make their declaration online at gov.bc.ca/spectax or by phone at 1-833-554-2323.


Have thoughts about the Speculation and Vacancy Tax? The Watershed values your opinion. Please leave your comment below, or email us at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca





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