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Empty Homes Tax declaration deadline extended

Vancouver City Council voted on May 12, 2020, to give property owners who missed the Empty Homes Tax (Vacancy Tax) declaration deadline in the first two years of the program ― the 2017 and 2018 tax years ― one final chance to make their declaration and have their Empty Homes Tax bill rescinded.

Late declarations for 2017 and 2018 would be due by December 31, 2020. These late declarations will be subject to a $375 bylaw fine.

Changes to the Vacancy Tax bylaw will need to be passed by Council before property owners can file a late declaration (in the form of a notice of complaint) for 2017 and 2018. More information will be posted once the bylaw changes are in effect.

In addition, Council voted to extend the late declaration deadline for the Empty Homes Tax (EHT) going forward to the first business day in July of the year following the regular declaration deadline. These late declarations will also be subject to a bylaw fine.

While EHT declaration rates each year have been very high ― more than 99% ― including for the first year of the program, a small number of property owners have cited mitigating circumstances that prevented them from making their declaration on time, such as incorrect mailing addresses and personal circumstances including medical issues.

Taxpayers are reminded to ensure their current mailing address for any properties they own is updated with BC Assessment, as that is our data source for all tax-related mailings.

The declaration date for the 2019 vacancy tax reference year was February 4, 2020.  Late declarations are now open and, once the bylaw changes are passed, the final deadline to make a late declaration will be the first business day in July 2021, extended from December 31, 2020. Property owners are encouraged to make their EHT declarations on time to avoid penalties.

The main objective of the Empty Homes Tax is to return empty or under-utilized residential properties to use as long-term rental homes for people who live and work in Vancouver. The program was launched in response to Vancouver’s housing crisis. In addition, all revenue from the tax ― after costs ― is designated to fund affordable housing initiatives.

When a declaration is not received by the regular deadline, under the Vacancy Tax bylaw, the property is deemed vacant and the property owner is assessed the tax. Submitting a late declaration may result in the Empty Homes Tax bill being cancelled, once the filing is accepted and the review finds that the property was occupied or exempt.

As of the February 4, 2020 deadline to make a declaration for the 2019 reference period, 97% of property owners had made their declarations online; as of May 11 the percentage declared is 99. Payments were due April 16; all payments received after the deadline are subject to a 5% penalty and interest will be charged beginning January 1, 2021. All unpaid balances are added to the owner’s property tax bill.

About the Empty Homes Tax

The Empty Homes Tax is an annual program started in January 2017 and was the first tax of its kind in North America. Most residential properties are not subject to the tax, including homes that are principal residences or rented out for at least six months of the year; or homes that are eligible for one of eight exemptions as set out in the bylaw.

Vacant properties are subject to a tax of 1% of the property’s assessed taxable value (City Council has approved an increase to 1.25% for the 2020 reference period; declarations open late fall).