January 7, 2016 2:22 am
Updated: January 10, 2016 12:50 pm

How to legally defer paying your property taxes in British Columbia

WATCH: A tax loophole could save you thousands of dollars a year. As Nadia Stewart reports, it involves deferring your property taxes until you decide to sell.

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It’s a program designed to help struggling B.C homeowners.

But apparently even those who are not struggling are taking advantage of it.

“It isn’t fair, but it’s a program that the government offers and I think people would be foolish not to take advantage of it,” said Michael Geller, a local real estate consultant.

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It’s called the Tax Deferral Program. Established in 1974, it allows persons with disabilities, seniors over 55 and families with children under the age 18 to apply to put off paying their property tax on a principal residence.

For seniors, the interest rate is less than one per cent, and the loan is only repaid when the home is sold.

In 2014, more than 36,000 people across British Columbia were on the program. That includes those who need it, and those who don’t.

Over the last six years, Geller has deferred $60,000, taking the money and investing it – and he’ll be the first one to tell you he should not be able to do this.

“These financial breaks that aren’t being given to young struggling couples or young individuals with student debt, who are struggling to save money for the first house,” he said.

“When you think about it, it is absurd.”

But NDP MLA David Eby says the program is important for low-income people.

“The reality is that for every person that’s taking advantage of the program in this way, there’s at least another senior somewhere else that desperately needs this program to stay in their home,” says Eby.

Both Geller and Eby say the program needs to be fixed. With property assessments for houses in the Lower Mainland rising by 10 to 30 per cent this year, many are being squeezed out of the market, forced to pay ever-rising property taxes they can no longer afford.

READ MORE: Vancouver senior calls rising property assessment ‘rope on my neck’

However, Eby says even if loopholes in the property tax program are closed, that’s only a small fix to a larger problem.

“The problem is the fact that there are out of control real estate values here that are barring a lot of people here — seniors, families, young people — from participating
in the Lower Mainland, from being in the communities they’d like to be in, from working here and from contributing to our community.”

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