(Joint with Nathan Lauster and cross-posted at HomeFreeSociology) The province has released (via press release) the first data on its Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT)! Huzzah! Previously, we’ve speculated on what this data would show. In particular, we estimated that around 8,800 dwellings would show up as empty in a way likely to be taxed by the speculation tax. How close were we? Well, the speculation tax has so far identified 8,738 owners of empty properties.
(Joint with Nathan Lauster and cross-posted at HomeFreeSociology) BC has introduced the Speculation and Vacancy Tax and instructions for filling out the declarations are in the mail. The tax targets homes in major urban centres that are left empty, or that are owned by “foreign and domestic speculators” that “don’t pay [income] taxes” in BC. The tax rate is 0.5% of the assessed value in 2018. From 2019 onward rates increase to 2% for foreigners (not permanent residents nor Canadian citizens) as well as citizens or permanent residents that are deemed members of “satellite families.
Vancouver has low property taxes and high income taxes. Seattle is the opposite. What would it look like if British Columbia was more like Washington State? If we got rid of personal provincial income tax and recovered the revenue by raising the provincial portion of the residential property tax, a.k.a. the “school tax”. The tax policy of British Columbia, when compared to Washington, is sending the message that it’s a great place to come and invest in property with it’s low property tax rate, but not such a great place to live and work with it’s higher income tax rate.
We have written about the extra school tax before, but in the meantime the discussion about the extra school tax has heated up considerably, cumulating in David Eby cancelling his town hall today. Over the years I also have been spending some time thinking about how people got to the privilege of paying the extra school tax, for example here and here. There is a slight dissonance with people claiming that their homes should not be taxed because they are their homes and not their investment.
The new BC provincial budget had lots of interesting changes. One of them is the additional school tax on residential properties, charged at a rate of 2 basis points (0.002) of the assessed value above $3M and an additional 2 basis points of the assessed value above $4M. After some initial confusion the province clarified that this tax will not to apply to purpose built rental buildings, each of which is typically one single taxable property, which can easily breach the $3M threshold for multi-unit buildings.