Robert Simpson and Denise Pettersson Simpson on the porch of their Mitchell Street home. The couple has spent their retirement between two houses in Texas and Oak Bay. They believe the speculation tax should have been introduced with a grand-parented clause that doesn’t target people such as themselves, who are longtime homeowners and retirees. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

B.C.’s speculation tax under fire in first major legal challenge

Group petition filed Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court

A group of B.C. homeowners filed a petition to the Supreme Court of B.C. on Thursday to challenge the new speculation and vacancy tax.

While the province introduced the speculation and vacancy tax (SVT) as a measure to mitigate ballooning real estate costs in the midst of a housing crisis in B.C.’s bigger urban centres, some feel it is unfair.

Many are Canadians who have lived in their B.C. homes for a long time. The petition seeks an injunction from their new taxes, through an order from the court declaring the SVT is unconstitutional and infringes Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Two of the petitioners include Oak Bay’s Denise Pettersson Simpson and Robert Simpson, who were issued a $6,000 speculation tax bill for their Mitchell Street house. Denise, 72, was raised in the house as a child and inherited it in 1996. The two have split their lives between there and their U.S. residence for more than 20 years.

Her husband is an American citizen and because of that, they are deemed to be a “satellite” family and are therefore ineligible for exemptions under the spec tax legislation. Next year, as a non-Canadian citizen, Robert will be assessed the full two per cent for 2019 and his bill will jump to approximately $12,000.

The couple live off their pensions, Robert’s being the same one he’s received most his life for career-ending injuries he suffered in war, they said.

“The home is the last connection I have to my family, they have all passed away,” Denise added.

Kailin Che, one of the Vancouver lawyers on the case, said “the implication of the tax will force homeowners to move out, sell or rent out their homes … It limits homeowners’ Charter protected liberty rights to choose to reside, without state interference.”

READ MORE: Speculation tax forces sale of Oak Bay’s tulip house

Other petitioners include a Canadian mother who resides in a home with her two children, taking care of her family with her retired, non-resident spouse.

The house is never vacant and has always been used as the family’s residence. The petition claims the family will have to move out of their home as neither spouse can afford to pay a $5,000 tax bill with their after-tax retirement income.

Che said it is a tax grab and a form of indirect taxation that falls outside the powers of the provincial government.

“The tax is arbitrary and divisive and quite frankly, misses the mark,” Che said. “It taxes many homeowners who are neither speculators nor leaving their homes vacant. Even if it doesn’t affect you today, it may affect you tomorrow.”

READ ALSO: Speculation tax has generated $3.74 million

Another one of the petitioners is a recently retired medical doctor who has limited vision. She lives in a small condo in Richmond that she purchased two years ago to be close to her work and her volunteer activities. Her spouse continues to reside in their previously purchased Surrey townhome. While there are exemptions for spouses living in separate residences for work purposes, the distance between their two residences falls below the 100-kilometre requirement.

The petition is funded by the Canadian Institute of Legal Reform, a grass-roots organization that is supporting and fundraising for legal challenges in respect of the SVT at saynotospectax.com.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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