Home Editorials Letters LETTER: Unfair tax collection on BC newcomers

LETTER: Unfair tax collection on BC newcomers

"It has been six years. I am a permanent resident now. The government did not fix this problem." ~ Colwood resident Eric Chang

Tuesday September 13, 2022 | COLWOOD, BC

===== Letter by Eric Chang

Editor’s Note: BC invites ‘entrepreneurial immigrants’ to be part of our economy, our community and our neighbourhoods. One of those newcomers to the west shore is Eric Chang. He came to Colwood in 2017 by way of a promise for a new life, in exchange for his significant investment in the local economy. But some aspects of that turned out to be crushing. Here is a letter by Colwood business owner Eric Chang, to explain more. ~ Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

On July 25, 2016, then-premier Christy Clark announced a 15 per cent tax on the purchase of residential real estate by foreign buyers. It applied to all property transfers registered with the Land Title Office on or after August 2 of that year, regardless of the date of the corresponding contract of purchase and sale.

Many sales contracts had been signed before the tax was announced, but could not be completed until after it came into force. It increased our costs by 15 per cent after we were already committed.

Whoever made this effective date rule had to know that presale home buyers couldn’t register their purchases until after the deadline, but they just sat at their office and waited to collect tax from us.

They said the goal was to cool the real estate market and make it affordable for middle class families — but the truth is that it was also a way to rob foreign buyers who entered into contracts before the provisions were announced or came into force.

NDP criticized the tax:

NDP MLA David Eby, later attorney general, criticized the tax, saying “it unfairly singles out foreign people instead of foreign money.”

“It penalizes new immigrants who are working and living here, but don’t have citizenship yet,” Eby told CBC’s On the Coast.

“I fear we’re going to be back in six months fixing this problem.”

It has been six years. I am a permanent resident now. The government did not fix this problem.

Here is my situation:

1. I came to Canada from Taiwan with my family in December 2014, and applied to BC’s provincial nominee entrepreneur immigration program in March 2015.

2. My wife and I entered into a contract to buy a house in early April 2016, before the tax was announced (the tax announcement was made on July 25, 2016).

3. I was accepted as a candidate for the nominee program in October 2016 and signed a performance agreement with the provincial government, stipulating conditions I must abide by to become confirmed as a nominee..

4. As part of those conditions, I took over my current small business on April 14, 2017, investing more than $300,000.

5. I was confirmed as a provincial nominee in December 2018, submitted my application for permanent residence status in February 2019, and got PR status on April 21, 2021.

From the moment we arrived in 2014, every penny I transferred here from Taiwan and every penny I made here was spent (and taxed) in BC.

I agree that a responsible government must make policies to deal with the housing crisis. My only hope is that those policies would be fair.

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In my case, implementing the foreign buyers tax after I signed a contract to buy the house, but before I could register the sale, led to the Finance Ministry wanting me to pay $240,000 (which interest brought to almost $300,000). They abused their power to rob foreign presale home buyers who entered into their contracts before these provisions were announced or came into force.

These provisions were meant to let future foreign buyers be aware of this additional transfer tax before they make the decision to buy houses in BC, not to penalize those foreign pre-sale house buyers (including new immigrants) who entered into their sales contract before these provisions were announced or came into force.

  • Is this justice in Canada? Dear Premier, where is my justice?
  • Dear Mr. Eby, where is my justice?
  • Dear MLAs, where is my justice?
  • Dear judges, where is my justice?
  • Dear law-school professors, where is my justice?
  • Dear lawyers, where is my justice?
  • Dear B.C. residents, where is my justice?
  • Dear media, where is my justice?

Worries now and ahead:

I am turning 51 this year. I saved enough meet the requirements of BC’s entrepreneur program, and brought my family here to start a new life, only to have my life savings and my two children’s education fund taken by the Finance Ministry just because we couldn’t register our unfinished house with the Land Title Office before August 2, 2016.

I can’t accumulate enough CPP for retirement. All I rely on is the money I worked so hard to save in Taiwan — and it has been taken by the Finance Ministry.

I worry now. I have been overwhelmed and depressed for years because of it. I have been hiding at home after work. I don’t have another 25 years to save $300,000. I am working seven days a week like a beaten dog just to barely pay all my bills, I can’t save money at all.

Amend unfair provisions:

I reiterate again that I am not asking the BC government to abolish the foreign buyers tax. I am just humbly hoping that the premier, the ministers and the MLAs will amend its unfair provisions. Those provisions were amended many times over the years. NDP MLAs are the majority now. They can make it right if they are willing to.

Simply: Foreigners who entered into a contract of purchase and sale before these provisions were announced or came into force should be unconditionally exempted from paying additional foreign property transfer tax.

I can only hope that this public letter can awaken the conscience and moral courage of the policy-makers. I am overwhelmed and exhausted, mentally and physically.

What you can do:

Please help me, in any way, to get my savings back from the BC government. It is a battle for my family’s future. I have to stand up and carry all of the burden to fight for it. I am trying to get this point through to the BC government and particularly the Ministry of Finance, so they will rectify this injustice to well-intentioned newcomers who have invested so much into the province of BC.

Write to your MLA to let them know that this unfair tax situation on newcomers to BC must be changed.

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mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke is the Editor & Publisher of Island Social Trends.

Island Social Trends is an online news portal that presents the news of South Vancouver Island with a socioeconomic lens on current issues.

Publishing since 2008 (formerly MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020), Island Social Trends has been guided from the start by the insightful journalism of Mary P Brooke, Editor.

Letters welcome: letters@islandsocialtrends.com