Home owners and businesses in BC have received their annual property tax notices in the mail or online.
Property taxes are due the first or second business day in July. Check the tax notice or the local municipality for the exact date. Local utilities are billed separately and have different payment deadlines.
What taxes do property owners pay?
About 50% of the taxes owing are levied by the local municipality. Municipalities also collect taxes for other taxing authorities including:
Municipal tax – is set by council and staff in the municipality’s annual budget process. It’s based on revenue needs for infrastructure and services.
Regional district tax – is set by the regional districts for services such as regional water and sewage treatment. For example, Metro Vancouver tells its municipal governments what its revenue needs are, and the municipalities collect on Metro’s behalf. In rural areas, the province (Surveyor of Taxes) collects for regional districts.
School tax – is set by the BC government to fund schools. Residential rates vary by school district. School taxes are paid by residential and non-residential property owners.
Hospital tax – is set by the regional hospital district to help fund local health facilities. In the case of Metro Vancouver, hospitals are funded completely by the province, and are not supplemented by property taxes. Outside Metro Vancouver, hospital taxes are still levied.
Other taxes – are set by local taxing authorities and collected by the municipality to fund BC Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority of BC and TransLink.
Avoid late payment penalties
Property owners must pay their taxes by the due date (which varies by local government) or there is an initial penalty of 5%.
If property owners don’t pay by the second tax deadline (which also varies by local government) they will face an additional penalty on the unpaid balance.
Property owners failing to pay for three consecutive years could forfeit their property to a public tax sale to recover the taxes owing. For information about tax sale dates, look on local government websites.
Property owners paying their taxes by mail must have the envelope postmarked no later than the due date to avoid a penalty. Electronic payments must be completed by the due date.
No tax notice?
Property owners who did not receive a tax notice should contact their municipal finance department and arrange for a duplicate notice. Property owners must ensure their municipality and BC Assessment have the correct mailing address. Property owners must pay property taxes on time whether they receive a property tax notice or not.
Receive your property tax and utility notices electronically
Some municipalities now deliver property tax and utility notices electronically by request. Depending on the municipality, this is done either through Canada Post’s epost online mail service or through their own system. Further information on e-billing can be found on the property tax page of local municipal websites.
Home Owner Grants – help for residential property owners
Since 1957, the BC government’s Home Owner Grant (HOG) Program has helped reduce residential property taxes. Eligibility requirements restrict this grant to Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who are permanent residents, and whose home is their principal residence.
1. Basic Home Owner Grant – A grant of up to $570 for qualifying home owners. For 2014, the Basic Grant is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of assessed value over $1,100,000, and is eliminated on homes assessed at $1,214,000 or more.
2. Additional Home Owner Grant – An Additional Grant of up to $275 for qualifying home owners age 65+, disabled persons or veterans. The total Basic and Additional Grant amounts to $845. The Additional Grant is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of assessed value over $1,100,000, and is eliminated on homes assessed at $1,269,000 or more.
For the both the Basic and the Additional Grants, spouses living together (married, common-law or same gender) can qualify for a grant on only one principal residence each year.
Spouses living apart can each claim a grant on their principal residence provided they have a written separation agreement or a court order recognizing their separation.
For information, visit: www.sbr.gov.bc.ca/documents_library/bulletins/hog_001.pdf
At a financial institution: pay online, by phone, in person, or through an ATM. (Set up the service first before paying through an ATM). Ask if there is a delay when processing payments and keep the receipt as proof of payment. Submit the Home Owner Grant application directly to the municipality or by using the municipality’s electronic home owner grant application system (eHOG).
At City Hall: in person using a cheque, money order, cash, or debit card.
At City Hall: in the drop box, open 24 hours per day. Drop boxes may also be available elsewhere in the community. Put the cheque or money order in an envelope and write “Property Taxes” on it. Use the envelope provided with the tax notice.
Through a mortgage: a lender can pay property taxes on behalf of a taxpayer if this service is arranged beforehand.
By installments: check with the municipality to see if prepayment options are available, including the property Pre-Authorized Withdrawal Service (PAWS) or the Property Taxes and Annual Utilities Pre-Authorization Pre-Payment Plan (PAPP).
Online: at www.epost.ca (for municipalities that subscribe to this service) or by using the municipality’s own online payment system, where there is one.
Claim the Home Owner Grant
Property owners eligible for the Home Owner Grant must:
complete the application on the bottom of the property tax notice; sign it; and return it to their local municipality by the close of business on the date the taxes are due.
Why do property taxes increase?
Municipal councils set property taxes to meet their funding needs.
Municipalities are prohibited from running deficits under the Community Charter, and regional districts also can’t run deficits under the Local Government Act. Property taxes are a key source of revenue for local governments. Metro Vancouver’s population will grow by 1.2 million to 3.4 million residents by 2041.
To retain the high quality of life, this growth will require increasing local government:
– operating budgets to cover spending on services such as fire, police, libraries, traffic safety, planning, utility operations and parks;
– capital budgets to cover costs for infrastructure such as road and bridge repairs, new sewer and water lines and treatment facilities, new fire halls, community centres, pools, playing fields and arenas.
To determine how much property taxes will increase, municipal councils take into account these growth needs, as well as the amounts of transfer payments from provincial and federal governments.
Property taxes are then calculated through a formula that takes into account the assessed value of property in the municipality as determined by BC Assessment, and the rate for the property class type.
For detailed information on how the municipality calculates taxes, contact the local municipality. Most municipalities also include a helpful brochure with the tax notice or online, which explains the municipality’s needs, priorities and methods of tax calculation.