Increasing number of BC seniors deferring on property tax

The number of BC seniors deferring on their property taxes has been increasing.

BC's Advocate for Seniors, Isobel Mackenzie, says a recent report, the Seniors Advocate Monitoring Seniors Services 2018, found the number of people deferring has risen by 53 percent in the last 4 years. 

She says this is because the age to apply for the Property Tax Deferral Program was lowered from 65 to 55;  the value of housing has gone up, so the amount of debt registered against the house represents a smaller figure than it did in the past; and deferring is a simple process.

"You fill out a form and send it in, and the province pays your property taxes on your behalf to your local government.  And then when the house is sold, in order to clear the title, that charge has to be lifted, so the money has to be paid back.  And interest is charged, but it's simple interest, it's not compounded interest, and it's tied to a long term interest rate, and so it's generally quite low"

She says the interest rate can fluctuate, but right now it's at 1.3 percent, and has been as low as 0.7 percent.

Mackenzie says people in Victoria are able to use this process to get around $4,000 dollars a year, which can be invested or used as a source of income, adding this can help seniors maintain their independence.

"Incomes do drop in retirement, people 65 and over have the lowest per capita income of any age cohort over 25.  And as we age, sometimes we incur expenses for things we used to be able to do for ourselves.  So you might have been able to clean out the eaves yourself, clear the sidewalk of snow, keep the house tidy yourself, but now your physical limitations require you to hire somebody to do that.  And this is a way to help you pay for that."

Mackenzie says the report covers dozens of programs and senior services, and some of those numbers are a little troubling.

On Vancouver Island, the number of home support clients has dropped 2.8%, whereas the population has risen by 4%, with the population of people over 85 rising by 5%.  The number of clients in adult day programs, where seniors can go to participate in activities and socialize, has dropped 3%, while the numbers of days offered have also dropped.

She says she hopes to see an increase in these services when they conduct the survey next year.

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