BC Supreme Court Rules on Question of Foreign Buyer Tax Discrimination

Collecting Personal Data for the Speculation Tax - Canada Supreme Court

Written ByMathieu Powell

I'm a sceptic & humanist who's optimistic about our future. Our stories help us find common ground.

In a landmark trial, a B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden dismissed Jing Li’s claim after finding that the 20 per cent tax levied against foreign purchasers of residential property in B.C. does not discriminate against either Asian or Chinese buyers.

Li’s claim was the tax placed the greatest burden on Chinese foreign buyers as they represent the greater percentage. However, Bowden found that the tax draws distinctions based on citizenship and not on ethnic or national origin. People who don’t have Canadian citizenship do not have to pay the tax if they are permanent residents or provincial nominees.

The tax, initially enacted in 2016, required foreign entities (including foreign nationals) to pay an additional 15 per cent on the purchase of residential property in Greater Vancouver in response to unprecedented growth in the Vancouver real estate market. The NDP government increased the tax to 20 per cent in February 2018 and expanded the reach of the tax to include the Fraser Valley, Capital Regional District, Nanaimo Regional District and the Central Okanagan.

Li, who moved to Canada from China in 2013 to complete a master’s degree in public administration, entered into a contract to buy a half-million dollar condo in Burnaby in July 2016, the month before the tax came into effect. That’s a difficult blow for Li as it meant she had to pay an additional $83,850 as she was neither a permanent resident nor a Canadian citizen.

That’s a big bill to pay and doesn’t seem fair given how rapidly the Liberals brought in the tax. Perhaps her legal team could have brought her a better strategy?

Read the court case documents through this link.