Property tax deferral program

For those readers whose living costs seem to be outpacing their incomes, a timely look at BC’s excellent Property Tax Deferment Program may provide a solution.

If you own your home, have greater than 25 per cent equity, and at least one person aged 55 or older on title; or you are younger but disabled, you should, regardless of income, qualify for this program. Furthermore, a recent amendment also permits homeowners of any age to defer their property taxes, if they have dependent children under age 18.

After allowing for your Homeowner Grant, the program permits you to defer payment of all property taxes. Deferment can continue indefinitely until you, or your estate, sell the property. Title to your home cannot be transferred to another owner until all taxes owing, plus accrued interest, are paid in full.

The best news is that the simple-interest rate charged is two percentage points below the existing prime rate. Today, your account would be charged only one per cent interest annually.

To apply for this tax deferment program, pick up an application at your municipal office, or online at the BC Government website. Fill out the application, have all owners on title sign it, and mail or deliver it back to the municipal office. You will be charged a first-time application fee of $60. When you re-apply for annual renewal of the program, the fee drops to $10.

This relatively simple process can increase your disposable income by thousands of dollars annually, at an incredibly low interest cost, repayable only when your residence is eventually sold.

Readers may recall my January article in which a local couple in their 90’s who, on a simple technicality, were denied their $120,000 travel insurance claim. The obligation arose after the husband suffered a stroke while they were in California and had to spend six nights in hospital.

Having purchased their insurance at their bank, the couple believed they were fully covered — until informed by the insurance company that their claim had been denied.

The couple’s plight led to discussions with a generous local lawyer who assisted, as well as several conversations with the sympathetic bank manager where the policy had been purchased. Within a few weeks the insurance company reversed its decision, and agreed to pay all the costs they had previously denied.

While this is a good news update, it remains a major warning to all of us to not only purchase travel insurance, but also to be meticulously careful in completing the application. You can be certain that should a major claim arise, the insurance company will scrutinize your application and medical history with a fine-tooth comb, and potentially disallow your claim on even a minor technicality.

A retired corporate executive, Peter Dolezal is the author of three books. His most recent, The Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder, is now available at Tanner’s Books, and in other bookstores.

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