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Housing Affordability Tax Changes: Part 1 - BC Speculation Tax Explained

Housing Affordability Tax Changes: Part 1 - BC Speculation Tax Explained

BC Speculation Tax Explained
04 Jun 2018
Written by: editor

In this first installment on housing afforability tax changes, our Manning Elliott Tax Team will look at the new British Columbia Speculation Tax.

The BC Speculation Tax will apply to any residential property (including homes, condos, and cottages) in BC that is left unoccupied for 6 months or more within a calendar year. The hardest hit areas will be BC’s hottest real estate markets including Vancouver, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and Victoria.

Which areas in BC are impacted by the Speculation Tax?

The Speculation tax, which is a retroactive and punitive tax, applies to unoccupied residential properties within the following areas of British Columbia:

  • Metro Vancouver (excluding Bowen Island and Electoral Area A, except the part of the electoral area that is the UBC and University Endowment Lands)
  • Capital Region District (excluding the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca)
  • Kelowna-West Kelowna
  • Nanaimo-Lantzville (excluding Protection Island)
  • Abbotsford
  • Chilliwack
  • Mission

*Most islands in British Columbia are excluded.

Which residential properties in the impacted areas would be subject to the Speculation Tax?

All residential properties would be subject to the BC speculation tax unless one of the following exemptions is met:

  • Primary residences of British Columbians.
  • Properties used as qualifying long-term rentals (including condos and cottages).
    • 2018: rented at least 3 months
    • 2019 onwards: rented out for at least 6 months in increments of 30 days or more
  • Or if the owner or tenant is:
    • In a hospital under medical care
    • In a long-term care or supportive care facility
    • Away temporarily for work purposes
    • Or the registered owner is deceased and the estate is in the process of being administered

What is the Speculation Tax Rate?

The following BC specuation tax rates will apply to the fair market value of the property:

  • Year 2018: 0.5%
  • Year 2019 onwards:
    • 2% for foreign investors and satellite families
      • A satellite family is where a member of the family lives in BC but does not pay BC income taxes.  For example, a family member  living in BC with an income-earning spouse residing outside of BC;
    • 1% for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who don’t live in BC
    • 0.5% for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who live in BC who are not a satellite family member (exemptions apply for properties valued at less than $400,000)

Are There Tax Credits Available?

A tax credit is available in certain instances:

  • If the Speculation Tax applies and you are a resident of BC (who is not a satellite family member), you will be eligible for a tax credit that is applied against the Speculation Tax.
  • Maximum tax credit available is $2,000.
  • For homeowners with multiple properties, the tax credit will only apply to one property.

What BC Speculation Tax issues should we be concerned with?

Administration & Enforcement - The NDP government has provided little information regarding the administration and enforcement of the Speculation Tax and formal legislation isn’t expected until the fall. Based on the information we do know, it is intended to apply in January 1, 2018. However, there is no clarity on whether the tax will be a personal tax (ie. follows the taxpayer even after they sell) or whether it will follow the property. This poses the question as to who will be responsible for paying this tax in 2018 if a property sale has occurred; the seller or the buyer.

Primary Residence Definition - The limited information provided states an exemption exists for residential properties that are the primary residence of an owner. However, no clarification has been provided as to what the definition of a “primary residence” includes. Does it take on the definition of a “principal residence” per the Income Tax Act?  Or perhaps the definition in BC’s Property Transfer Tax Act? The definition differs depending on the source.

What Constitutes A Family - The Speculation Tax specifically targets “satellite families” however, there is no guidance on what constitutes a “family”. Does it include parent-child?  Siblings?  Common law relationships?  Also, consider the example where a family who lives in Alberta has a child attending a university in BC. The child can’t find a rental apartment and as such, the family purchases a condo for the child to live in. The child doesn’t pay rent. Would the Speculation Tax apply because the child is considered a “satellite family” and the family doesn’t pay tax in BC?

According to the NDP Government of British Columbia, the BC Speculation Tax was designed to increase the available residential properties on the market by discouraging absentee owners from leaving their properties vacant. The NDP also hopes this will cool down high BC real estate prices.

If you still have questions about the BC Speculation Tax, please contact the Manning Elliott Tax Team. We also invite you to subscribe to our mailing list so we can keep you up to date on all future tax related articles.

The above content is believed to be accurate as of the date of posting. Canadian and US Tax laws are complex and are subject to frequent changes. Professional tax advice should be sought before implementing any tax planning. Manning Elliott LLP cannot accept any liability for the tax consequences that may result from acting based on the information contained therein.


I am a Canadian citizen residing in the US. We have owned our townhouse in Richmond for 14 years and have resided there 5 months per year for the last 14 years. Our townhouse regulations prohibits rentals of any sort and in addition no persons under 45 years of age can be an owner nor can people under 25 years of age reside in the townhouse complex.
My question: will we be exempt from the speculation tax?

Hey Wasson,

Thank you for the comment.

As your inquiry contains a few specific variables, I would suggest you speak with a member of our real estate team in order to obtain further insight. I invite you to submit a contact form here: https://manningelliott.com/contact-us.html and provide us with as much details as you can.

A member of our team will be in touch with you afterwards.

Best regards,

What about a Canadian Citizen with a condo unit (not principal residence) that the strata does not allow to rent. Unit sits unoccupied. Is exempt from City of Vancouver "empty home tax" (due to strata restriction). Will I have to choose between facing the penalty from strata for renting out or penalty from the province for not renting out?

Thank you.

Hey Peter,

Thank you for the comment

The NDP government has not provided detailed legislation on the BC speculation tax so far. However, residential strata lots for which existing applicable bylaws prohibit rentals are expected to be temporarily exempt (though stratas will not be permitted to introduce new rental restrictions to avoid the Speculation Tax).

The above says exemptions for properties valued at less than $400,000. Is there more information regarding this? I'm a Canadian citizen from Alberta and have a condo in Richmond BC, that is below the $400,000 value, and the condo strata does not allow rentals and is age restrictioned to plus 19 with no children, I spend around 8 to 9 months in this condo. Will I be exempt from the specation tax?

Hey Greg,

British Columbians who are Canadian citizens will be exempt from the Speculation Tax if the value of the property is less than $400,000. An exemption is also available if the property is your primary residence.  The BC Government has not yet provided a definition of “primary residence” (i.e. how many months do you need to live in the home in order for it to be your primary residence?).  A more thorough response can be provided once legislation is released, which is expected to be in the fall.    

Thank you for your inquiry

I am buying a condo in 2020 that will be my principle residence in BC. However, my current principle residence may take a long time to sell. If it is empty for more than 6 months while it is on the market will I be subject to speculation tax? I am a Canadian citizen and a BC resident and pay income tax in BC even though I am retired.

It's my understanding that if you choose to move, i.e, sell your house and buy another, and you take the route where you buy another house before selling the one you're in, then you will be deemed to own two houses and have to pay the speculation tax. Does this make sense?

I am not a Canadian resident but do own a house in Vancouver. My family stays there for.about 4~5months a year. If I rent the house out for three months in 2018 and more than six months in 2019 onwards, do I still need to pay the Speculation Tax first and use its tax credit to offset my income tax on the rental income? If so, what is the maximum tax credit that I will be entitled to? Thanks.

Hi there. I purchased a home for $405,000 in Nanaimo. My retired mother will live in the home and is on the property title. We are both Canadian citizens. I live and work abroad and thus my primary residence is overseas. How much tax will I pay? Thanks, so much.

The BC Speculation tax is against commo sense in English. How could they tax people for the so call speculation if the owners are not selling the properties after they purchased them? And how could they apply the law to punish the owners retroactively?

I own an apartment in an "apartment hotel" in one of the included areas of Vancouver. As such it is available for rent year round for both short and long term rentals. Consequently there is no way to guarantee that it is rented for 6months of the year or for a continuous period of 30days at a time (although it in all probability is).
This property is not subject to the existing"vacant property tax". Will the speculation tax apply?

My primary residence is in Vancouver, but I bought a 2nd residence (condo) for my elderly mother to live close by. She's responsible for all expenses, though she doesnt pay me rent. Do I have to pay the tax? Hi

My wife and I purchased an acreage in Victoria a little more than 10 years ago. My mother, who lives in Kelowna, helped me with the down payment. I have since paid back her back in full, but her name is still on title. She has sought out and received advice stating that she will most likely be taxed on her "perceived portion" of ownership of the residence. I would like some clarity as to what that sum may be because I will have to reimburse her for it.

My husband and I paid cash for our Kelowna home ten years ago when we purchased it. This is where we retired. After my husband passed away four years ago, I put my son on title with me. He is a Canadian Citizen but works in France. His income there is in no way related to me or my home. He is on title solely for the purpose that when I die he can easily dispose of the house. He received an Spec tax form. I do not make 3X the rental value of this house. Do we have some kind of exemption. We are obviously not speculators.

My Husband 82 and I, 72 are Canadian citizens. In 2012 my husband and I sold the family home and parted ways. We bought a condo for my Husband to live in and we are both on the title. In 2014 I bought a condo with my common law partner and am on the title of that property too. We are most definitely not speculators yet here I am in my twilight years on a fixed income having to fork out .5% on a property innocently purchased for my husband. Is there anything I can do to avoid this unfair tax?

I am a work permit holder and paying taxes for my worldwide income here in B.C.
I am living in my own property since I moved here in July 2017.
I somehow don’t qualify for any exemption unless I would rent out my place to a stranger.
How can that be right?

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