B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. to remove speculation ‘air tax’ passed on to commercial tenants

Tax applies to empty space above property because it’s vacant

The B.C. government is offering to remove the speculation and vacancy tax being assessed on the empty space above urban properties that is being passed on to commercial tenants in the actual buildings on the property.

The NDP government has been criticized for assessing the speculation tax on unbuilt structures based on the zoning of the property allowing higher buildings, which some landlords are passing on to commercial tenants. Finance Minister Selina Robinson announced Thursday that the province will waive one year of what has become known as the “air tax” for a small number of property owners that meet a list of conditions and apply for remission.

“We don’t believe that tenants should have these costs passed on to them by landlords,” Robinson said April 29. “We will temporarily remove the speculation and vacancy tax liability for 2020 for property owners that meet certain conditions. Both property owners and tenants can now apply for the remission to ensure the people we are trying to help, the tenants, don’t have to wait for the owner to apply.”

Robinson told reporters at the B.C. legislature her ministry is working on a permanent fix to stop property owners from rezoning the space above their commercial properties to residential, which lowers the property tax, but not building the units allowed by the zoning.

The speculation and vacancy tax has been added to property tax in these situations, sparking protests from tenants who say the tax is being passed on to their lease payments. Robinson says there are fewer than 100 landlords who are passing on the costs.

Tenants or landlords seeking an exemption for the 2020 tax are told to contact the finance ministry at 1-833-554-2323 to apply. It is for leases entered into before April 29, 2021, for a property that contains vacant residential space along with a class five or six commercial tenant.

RELATED: NDP defends ‘air tax’ on unbuilt properties, slow business aid

RELATED: Speculation tax doesn’t cool B.C.’s hot housing market


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