May 7, 2018 11:11 pm

British Columbians shortchanged on HST home renovation rebate

WATCH: A B.C. man is taking on the Canada Revenue Agency over an old tax credit, in a battle that could cost the B.C. government as much as $500 million. Richard Zussman reports.


British Columbians could be owed between $100 million and $500 million because of the botched execution of an HST home renovation rebate.

HST rebate specialist Sean Leitenberg says the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) was confused about two similar rebates from 2010 until 2013 and misguided people on how much of a rebate they could receive.

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“The people that answer the phone for the CRA, when you called them from British Columbia, they told you if your home was worth more than $450,000, you weren’t eligible for the rebate,” said Leitenberg. “The reason was the federal government also had a rebate that had a maximum value of $450,000. The CRA should have told British Columbians there is also a provincial rebate they are entitled to.”

READ MORE: HST: What’s taxed and what’s not

This is where the confusion came from. The federal government introduced the Home Renovation Tax Credit in 2009. The credit, for newly built or extensively renovated homes, came with a cap of homes valued at $450,000.

In 2010, the CRA administered a provincial credit that was set up to offset the increased costs of renovations because of the HST. But because of the misinformation Leitenberg says the CRA was providing, people were not applying for the credit.

The HST rebate specialist stepped in and filed paperwork for British Columbians that accounted for nearly $5 million in rebates. But Leitenberg says the money dried up, even though there were lots of people who did not receive their rebate.

The deadline for applying for the rebate was March 31, 2017, so new applicants are not eligible. Except Leitenberg says he has consulted with class-action lawyers that say due to the alleged miscommunication, there could be a strong case.

READ MORE: HST in BC repealed: What happens now?

“We are still looking at the possibility that there may be a chance of these people applying if they are just finding out now and then going after the CRA to pay these rebates but more for the damages caused by the wrong information, more than the rebates themselves,” said Leitenberg.

Leitenberg was in tax court on Monday. He is working with his clients that CRA says submitted their forms too late to get the grant. Victoria MP Murray Rankin has been advocating for Leitenberg and is hoping the CRA will stop wasting people money.

“There have been any number of lawsuits he has been involved in and he has won all of them,” said Rankin. “It looks to me that the CRA has been unreasonable and unwilling to sit down and sort this out with Mr. Leitenberg.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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