Opinion

Letnick: Help with property taxes

It’s that time of year again—homeowners throughout B.C. are receiving their property tax notices.

If a family is feeling a financial squeeze, that property tax notice might be unusually painful.

Fortunately, there are options.

Over the years I’ve served on city council and as your MLA, I continue to find people unaware that in some cases, they can choose to temporarily defer part or all of their property taxes to a later date, or upon selling the property.

There is no means test or any other requirement to disclose reasons—everyone is different.

It’s simply a provincial government program that helps individuals and families keep a few more dollars in their pockets when they believe they need them the most.

Property Tax Deferment is a low-interest loan program that assists qualifying homeowners in paying the annual property taxes on their principal residences.

The regular program is for property owners 55 years or older, a surviving spouse, or a person with disabilities as defined by regulation.

There are some restrictions and qualifications, but in all cases, to be eligible you must have, and maintain, a minimum equity of 25 per cent of the current B.C. assessment, after deducting the upper limit of all outstanding mortgages, lines of credit and other charges on your home.

Your assessed property value for this calculation must exclude any improvements not covered by a current fire insurance policy.

The Families with Children Property Tax Deferment Program is an option for families where no property owner is over 55, but would like to defer property taxes during those years when household costs can be high.

To be eligible, property owners must be financially supporting at least one dependent child under the age of 18.

Helpfully, it’s a flexible program—you may defer either all, or a portion of the unpaid current year residential or residential and farm taxes after deduction of the homeowner grant.

In all cases, property tax deferment is administered by the B.C. Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the municipal tax collectors and, in rural areas, the surveyor of taxes. Please note that if you sell any portion of your property, the tax and interest become fully repayable.

Aside from deferring property taxes—which, again, is a temporary solution—homeowners may also want to look into the homeowner grant program.

Qualified applicants receive a reduction of up to $570, with an additional $275 available for homeowners aged 65 or over, permanently disabled, or eligible to receive certain war-veteran allowances.

Homeowners need to apply for the grant each year when they pay their property tax.

Additionally, the northern and rural area homeowner benefit of up to $200 is also available for homeowners living outside of the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts.

Should you feel property tax deferment is an option for you and your family, please visit the B.C. Ministry of Finance website www.sbr.gov.bc.ca and search for “property tax deferment.”

As always, my constituency office staff is available to help Kelowna-Lake Country residents with information and more.

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