Are your clients struggling to pay their property tax bills? If so, you may want to talk with them about property tax deferment. Available to residents of British Columbia, this program can allow your clients to pay their property tax bill over time, rather than right away.
To participate in the B.C. property tax deferment, your clients usually must be over the age of 55. But if they are disabled or a widow or widower, they can apply regardless of their age. There is also a special program for families with children. To qualify, your client must be a parent, step-parent, or anyone else who’s financially responsible for the care of child.
Which Properties Qualify?
To qualify, the home must be your client’s primary residence. You can’t defer property tax for vacation homes or rental properties. The property also needs to meet a few more criteria, including the following:
- The property is residential (class 1) improvement
- There are no restrictive liens such as a Certificate of Pending Litigation
- The property isn’t taxed by a First Nation
- Your client doesn’t lease the property from the Crown
- Your client doesn’t own the property in trust or as an administrator of a deceased owner’s estate
- The house isn’t on stilts or floating
If your client’s property doesn’t qualify, you may want to look into additional programs. For instance, many provinces have special property tax deferral programs for farm land.
How to Apply
To apply, your clients need to send an application to the office noted on their property tax notice. Unfortunately, if you send the application to the wrong office, it’s likely to be rejected, and you need to start the process over again. Once you submit the application, be prepared to wait. It can take several months to receive a response.
If your clients are assessed a late fee while they’re waiting for a response, don’t worry too much. As long as you submit the application before the due date on the taxes, your clients can get the late fee waived if they’re accepted into the program.
How Does the Program Work?
If your clients get accepted, the provincial government pays their property tax bill. Then, the government places a restrictive lien on their property. That lien can prevent them from selling the home or making other changes to the title. Simple interest gets applied to the account, and your client makes payments as outlined in the agreement. Additionally, a $60 fee gets added to the balance for seniors, disabled individuals, and surviving spouses. This fee doesn’t apply to the family program.
Unfortunately, your clients won’t be approved if they have late property tax bills from previous years. To participate in this program, they must pay those outstanding amounts. If your client is struggling to stay on top of these bills, you may want to offer help with budgeting or assist them in finding other programs. For example, the home owner grant can help veterans, surviving spouses, seniors, and disabled individuals cover some of their property tax liability.
With individual clients, filing their income tax returns is just the beginning. You may want to offer additional services such as advice on personal finances, help with budgeting, and tips about programs like the property tax deferral.