There is no requirement in British Columbia that the purchaser of real property have any particular residency or citizenship. To occupy residential premises, the non-resident must comply with immigration requirements. These vary depending upon the nationality of the individual involved. U.S. residents are relatively free to occupy residential premises in Canada on a temporary basis. You may wish to check with your nearest Canadian Consulate regarding any residency permits that may apply in the event of an extended stay in Canada. You may also wish to bear in mind the following information:
Property Transfer Tax
The purchase of property in BC is subject to a provincial transfer tax amounting to one percent on the first $200,000 and two percent on the balance. Some exemptions apply in the case of buyers who have not owned property anywhere in the past. For detailed information, contact the Property Transfer Tax Information Line at (250) 387-0604.
Individual municipalities levy annual property taxes. The actual amount of tax payable depends on a number of factors, the key one being the assessed value of the property as determined by BC Assessment, a provincial assessment authority. This is a value set as of July 1 each year and is meant to reflect the market value as of that date. Citizens may appeal their assessment if they think it is too high. Municipalities then determine the rate of property tax to be levied based on this assessed value. Included in the annual tax notice are school and other taxes, which are set by the school district and other bodies. When considering a particular property, ask what the current property tax amount is – this information is usually readily available.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
The purchase of a brand new home, as distinct from a resale home, is usually subject to the federal GST. This tax stands at 6% (July 1, 2006) though a partial rebate is normally granted if the buyer plans to live in the home. The REALTOR with whom you deal will be able to tell you more about this if it applies. You may also wish to contact Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (telephone: (250) 363-0121) or write to them (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Vancouver Island Tax Services, 1415 Vancouver Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3W4) regarding whether GST would be applicable in your case and whether there are any other issues about which you should be aware.
If you have access to the Internet, you may wish to visit the Victoria Real Estate Board site (www.vreb.org) where you will find a number of information articles concerning buying real estate in BC. You will also be able to search for properties that meet your criteria in terms of price range and location.
Other taxation issues
It is recommended that you check with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and your own taxation authorities as there are significant implications should you earn any income from property in BC (e.g., through rents during the period that you own the property, or capital gains when the property is sold). It's also important to note that there may be tax implications when a non-resident property owner dies or when a property is transferred from a person to his or her company or relative, despite the fact that there may be no money.
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