British Columbia has announced a series of tax changes and financial measures to build on the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The province has allocated $5 billion in income support, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services, including:
- $500 per month rent subsidy payable directly to residential landlords.
- A freeze on evictions and rent increases for residential tenants.
- Deferred tax payments and extensions to certain filing/payments.
- A new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers.
- A Climate Action Tax Credit increase.
- A freeze on Student Loan repayments.
- Relief and deferrals provided by BC Hydro and ICBC.
Deferred tax payments
Effective immediately, BC is extending filing and payment deadlines for the following taxes until September 30, 2020:
- Employer Health Tax
- Provincial Sales Tax (including Municipal and Regional District Tax)
- Carbon Tax
- Motor Fuel Tax
- Tobacco Tax
Note: There is no announced extension for speculation tax and vacancy tax-filings. These would still be due March 31st.
March 2020 financial measures
BC Emergency Benefit for Workers
- A new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19.
- The benefit will be a one-time payment for BC residents who receive federal Employment Insurance (EI), or the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
- Applications will open in April 2020 (no information yet on the application process, but the suggestion here is that it will not be automatic).
- The one-time payment will be paid in May 2020.
Climate Action Tax Credit
- The province is increasing and expanding the BC Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020.
- An adult will receive up to $218 (increased from $174).
- A child will receive $64 (increased from $51).
- Effectively, eligible families of four will receive up to $564.This boosts the regular Climate Action Tax Credit payment of up to $112.50 per family of four and up to $43.50 per adult.
Support for renters, homeowners and people experiencing homelessness
- All evictions at BC Housing-funded buildings due to non-payment of rent have been halted.
- As part of BC’s poverty reduction strategy, the province provided $10 million to Vancity to administer funding and ensure the sustainability of the existing rent bank network.
- Canada’s six largest banks have worked together to freeze mortgage payments for six months for those in need.
- A new temporary rent supplement will provide up to $500 per month, paid directly to landlords.
- Further information, including eligibility and the application process is expected to be posted on BC Housing in early April
- Halting evictions by ensuring a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason, with certain limited exceptions.
- Freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.
Support for people with student loans
- Starting March 30, 2020, the province is freezing BC student loan payments for six months.
Support for people unable to pay monthly bills
- BC Hydro customers have the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. Customers who are dealing with job loss, illness or loss of wages due to COVID-19 will be able to use BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program for up to $600.
- ICBC customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.
Providing relief for businesses
- Tax support for businesses:
- Effective immediately, many provincial tax filing and payment deadlines are deferred to Sept. 30, 2020.
- Businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt.
- Payments for provincial sales tax (PST), Employer Health Tax, Municipal and Regional District Tax on short-term accommodation, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax are also deferred until Sept 30, 2020.
- The scheduled increase to the Carbon Tax rate, and application of PST to e-commerce transactions and sweetened and carbonated drinks, will be delayed.
- Relief for commercial property owners and tenants:
- Business and light and major industry property classes will see their school property tax cut in half for the 2020 tax year, providing $500 million in relief for business that own their property and for tenants on triple-net leases.
Investing in a longer-term economic plan
- $1.5 billion in provincial funding will support economic stimulus once the pandemic has passed.
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