The BC Speculation and Vacancy Tax is an annual tax that is determined based on how you use your property. The amount varies depending on the homeowner’s resident status in Canada. This tax helps the BC provincial government address the housing crisis through supporting affordable housing initiatives and turning empty homes into affordable housing for British Columbians.
Last updated in December of 2019, the speculation tax in B.C. is:
For example, a foreign owner or satellite family’s property with an assessed value of $1M would pay $20,000 a year in speculation tax. A Canadian citizen or permanent resident would pay $5,000 in tax per year for a similar $1M property.
A foreign owner is someone who is not a Canadian citizen nor permanent resident of Canada. A satellite family (also known as an untaxed worldwide earner) is an individual or spousal unit who earns the majority of their worldwide income outside of Canada, regardless of citizenship status. This means that if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident earning the majority of your income outside of Canada, you would be classified as a satellite family for the purposes of BC speculation tax and you would be taxed at the satellite family rate.
The BC Speculation and Vacancy Tax is applicable to you if you live any in the following areas: the Metro Vancouver Regional District, Capital Region District (CRD), Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo, and the Districts of Mission and Lantzville.
Vancouver homeowners are responsible for both the BC Speculation and Vacancy Tax and the Vancouver Empty Home Tax.
If you live in British Columbia outside of the taxable regions listed, you are not required to pay the speculation and vacancy tax.
If you own residential property in any of the areas listed above, you are required to complete a declaration for the BC speculation tax once early at the beginning of each year. You can declare online or over the phone after you receive your declaration letter. The top right hand corner of your declaration letter will contain your Letter ID and Declaration Code, which you will need to complete the declaration. All declaration letters will be mailed out between the months of January and February by the Government of British Columbia. The declaration must be completed by the end of March and the speculation tax for the prior year must be paid in July. For example, the declaration for 2019 must be completed by the end of March 2020 and the speculation tax must be paid in July of 2020.
If the property has multiple owners, each individual is required to make a separate declaration, even if the other owners are relatives or spouses. Documents you will need to complete the declaration as an individual include:
Some common speculation tax exemptions include the principal residence and tenancy exemptions. Individuals may be exempt from the BC Speculation Tax if it is their principal residence. If you own multiple properties, you may only claim one property as your principal residence. Spousal units can only claim separate principal residences if they are living apart for work reasons, medical reasons, or are divorced or separated. You may also be exempt from the Speculation Tax if your property is occupied by a tenant for more than six months in the calendar year. You can find more information on the BC Government's website.
The Speculation and Vacancy Tax was introduced by the British Columbia government on December 31, 2018, at the peak of the real estate crisis. The initial rate was 0.5% of the property’s assessed value per year for all properties within the targeted regions.
In the most recent 2019 update, the speculation tax was raised to 2.0% for foreign owners and satellite families but remained at 0.5% for Canadian Citizens and permanent residents who earned the majority of their income within Canada.
As of September 2019, the tax has been paid by 11,783 owners who own a total of 9,386 properties. During this period, the Finance Ministry estimated that the tax on foreign owners brought in $115 million for the city, which is used towards funding affordable housing initiatives.