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HomeBusinessExclusive: Tax breaks for Point Grey leaseholders reveal little-known city hall residential portfolio

Exclusive: Tax breaks for Point Grey leaseholders reveal little-known city hall residential portfolio

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Bob Mackin

The wife of an owner of the Vancouver Canucks and a Hollywood North producer and are among those getting a break from the NDP’s surtax on properties worth more than $3 million.

But it is not what you think.

House on civic land in Point Grey that qualifies for exemption from NDP’s so-called schools surtax (Google)

The provincial government slapped the 0.2% surtax on the value of a property assessed at over $3 million last year; the rate is 0.4% on the value over $4 million. It is officially a surtax for schools, but the funds go to general revenue.

The NDP cabinet passed an order on May 17 for the remission of any additional school tax imposed for the 2019 taxation year on 14 properties worth a combined $60.4 million in West Point Grey.

The reason for the tax break is that the properties near Jericho Beach, downhill from “billionaires row,” are ultimately owned by City of Vancouver.

In these cases, typically the additional school and other property taxes are paid instead by the taxable person/persons leasing from the exempt owner,” said a statement from the Ministry of Finance. “Because the additional school tax applies to the full assessed value of the property and not the value of the leasehold interest, we’ve built in an exemption for these owners with homes on leasehold land with less than 30 years left on their lease.”

The exemption only applies if the lease does not include a renewal clause. Should leaseholders renew their leases, they will be charged the tax on the value over $3 million.

“This exemption has been provided so the leaseholders aren’t unfairly paying additional school tax as the value of their leasehold interest depreciates toward zero toward the end of its term.”

Vancouver city hall spokeswoman Ellie Lambert said the city did not request the exemptions for the leased residential properties. 

“The province reviewed the land tenure arrangement for these properties and chose not to levy the school tax on these lessees. The city collects the tax and remits to the province,” Lambert said.

She said the city land holdings include 1,981 leasehold strata units, 34 single family homes on leased land in Champlain Heights and the 14 in Point Grey. 

The 14 properties average $4.3 million assessed value. B.C. Assessment records show the two most-expensive properties are the $6.19 million house registered to Deanna T. Aquilini, wife of Roberto Aquilini, and the $5.24 million house registered to film and TV producer Shawn Michael Williamson. Had they owned the properties, they would have been hit with surtax bills of $10,760 and $6,960, respectively. 

Two of the properties on Belmont and Sasamat were valued at just over the $3 million threshold. The amounts owing would have been less than $200 each. 

The tax policy sparked a lawn sign campaign by BC Liberal-aligned opponents in Point Grey and Shaughnessy. Their threat to mount a recall campaign against NDP Attorney General David Eby, the Vancouver-Point Grey MLA, has not materialized. 

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