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Province plans for tax relief in wake of 2005 assessments

Relief will have no impact in Whistler

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Though assessed property values have increased 17 per cent across the province this year, many homeowners may not be paying more in property taxes.

The provincial government plans to introduce legislation next month, as part of its 2005 Budget, which will see properties assessed at $685,000 or under qualify for the home owner grant. Last year the ceiling on the grant was $585,000.

If approved, the legislation will allow homeowners of residential homes assessed at $685,000 or less to qualify for a $470 reduction in their residential property taxes.

The $100,000 increase in the cap is the equivalent of roughly 17 per cent.

"The real estate and housing boom we’re seeing shows immense confidence in our economy," said Finance Minister Colin Hansen. "It’s great to see so many people moving here and building their futures in British Columbia.

"But rising property values also create concern for a number of people – especially seniors on fixed incomes – who stand to lose some or all of the home owner grant.

"These changes will help ensure senior citizens and persons with disabilities continue to share in the benefits of a stronger economy."

The proposed change will have no impact on Whistler homeowners, who saw their ceiling for the home owners grant increased to $2 million in 2003.

Whistler worked for several years to negotiate a deal with the provincial government for some tax relief in light of the soaring property values in the resort.

Whistler, municipal officials argued, was paying a disproportionate share of the school taxes for the district, which are based on property values, because the property values in the resort were so much higher than in other areas of the school district, namely Squamish and Pemberton.

Now permanent Whistler residents who own homes assessed at the $2 million mark or less can qualify for the homeowner’s grant of $470.

At the same time, Whistler homeowners also got a rebate on their school taxes. The province created a separate school tax rate for resident homeowners.

Between those two forms of tax relief, the average Whistler resident homeowner could expect roughly $600 in rebates in the last tax year.

The province now estimates 21,000 homeowners across B.C., who would have faced a reduced home owners grant benefit because of the increase in their assessed property value, could receive the full grant under the proposed legislation.

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