Finance Minister Carole James has faced questions for weeks about the effect of a new property tax on vacation homes. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Finance Minister Carole James has faced questions for weeks about the effect of a new property tax on vacation homes. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Pressure on Carole James to ease B.C. speculation tax

Vacation home owners plead for relief from vacant home levy

As B.C. Finance Minister Carole James prepares changes to the speculation tax she announced in her February budget, protests continue to come forward from people hit with steep new costs for their vacation homes.

Dave Pentland of Surrey says he is looking at a 500 per cent increase on his share of a Salt Spring Island vacation property he and his brother inherited. He calculates that his tax bill for the property would go from $1,849 to $9,284, which is nearly a quarter of his retirement income.

He says he and his brother are not speculators, and want to keep the property in the family.

“The NDP’s speculation tax has really left me with one option,” Pentland said. “Pay the tax until the next election and hope for a change in government. If the government does not change then I cut my losses, hand the keys to my brother and walk away.”

Retirees Tom Stewart and his wife sold their “modest home” in Ontario and bought a condo there and an apartment in Oak Bay where they spend half the year. Stewart says the proposed two per cent surtax on the apartment will cost at least $5,000 a year, which they can’t afford on their retirement income.

The couple has relatives in Ontario and don’t want to try to find a new doctor if they move to B.C. full time to avoid the tax. And the strata corporation that runs their Oak Bay apartment doesn’t allow rentals.

“It is frustrating that our retirement dream is being quashed almost from the outset,” Stewart said. “We are pretty far removed from the alleged target of the legislation.”

RELATED: Arizona snowbirds ‘pushed out’ of summer homes

James is expected to announce changes to the tax Monday afternoon.

As originally announced in the B.C. budget Feb. 20, the speculation tax would be charged to out-of-province residents who inherited a family summer or ski cabin, if it is in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Nanaimo or Capital Regional District, or the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.

It is to begin at 0.5 per cent of property value, rising to two per cent later. People who pay income tax in B.C. would receive a tax credit, but some say they don’t have enough income to cover the cost of the speculation tax.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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