B.C. urged to tighten scrutiny of foreign investors after spike in cash seized at YVR

Currency seized from Chinese citizens arriving in Vancouver more than doubled to $6.4 million in 2015

Canadian authorities seized $6.4 million in undeclared cash from passengers arriving from China in 2015.

Canadian authorities seized $6.4 million in undeclared cash from passengers arriving from China in 2015.

The B.C. government is under renewed pressure to regulate foreign money inflows after the disclosure that the amount of undeclared cash seized from Chinese citizens at Vancouver airport has soared over the past three years.

Data obtained by NDP MLA David Eby under a federal access to information request shows undeclared cash confiscated from Chinese arrivals at YVR more than doubled from $2.8 million in 2013 to $6.4 million in 2015.

That’s in addition to more than $320 million over the same three years that was declared by Chinese citizens.

“It seems significant to us from the perspective of where is the money going,” Eby said. “Is it going into the real estate market or is it going somewhere else?”

The vast majority of money seized at YVR in each of the three years was carried by Chinese nationals – more than from all other countries combined.

Eby said the province could do much more to deter foreign investors from parking money in the B.C. real estate market and largely avoiding taxes.

The B.C. government introduced its 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of property in Metro Vancouver effective Aug. 1 and the pace of sales has dropped sharply since then.

Eby said the foreign buyers tax may be encouraging local buyers to wait on the sidelines to see if prices will fall.

But he said he doubts it will have much impact on wealthy overseas investors.

“For true international speculators that are bringing money into real estate as a way to get it out of an unstable economy somewhere else, this is just a cost of doing business.”

Because the new tax applied on deals struck before Aug. 1 that had not closed by that date, it triggered a scramble by some foreign buyers to speed up closing or find other ways around the tax.

The developer of the Trump tower in downtown Vancouver has acknowledged helping foreign buyers of the pre-sale condos there assign their contracts to Canadian family or friends to avoid paying the tax.

Eby argues for a higher ongoing annual property tax surcharge on homes owned by people who are not residents of Canada for tax purposes and not paying tax in B.C.

He said the government’s belated tax on foreign buyers going forward fails to extract anything from all those who already own homes here.

“There’s a lot of money already here in the real estate market,” he said. “There’s a lot of investors who were already here before the new tax came in. And those people don’t have to pay the new tax.

Eby also said the province needs to take steps to modernize the tax system and better enforce against illegal transfers.

“There’s lots of smoke but there don’t appear to be any firefighters.”

A finance ministry spokesman said illicit transfers of cash into Canada is the jurisdiction of the federal government, as is anything that happens at Vancouver airport.

In a statement issued Sunday in response to newly reported allegations of possible tax evasion, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the Canada Revenue Agency is the primary body for auditing income tax compliance.

“The CRA must diligently enforce the law,” he said.

But immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the CRA would be much better armed to crack down on foreign tax evaders if the B.C. government had made property buyers declare whether they are tax residents of Canada.

That would make it much easier for the CRA to extract capital gains tax from foreign citizens when they sell property at a profit, he said.

“Not having that information ties CRA’s hands and that’s not right. B.C. has to help CRA do its job. It can’t just smile, cross its hands and say ‘Good luck with this, there’s nothing we can do.’ Because it’s just not true.”

Kurland suggested Canadian authorities could reel in the largest tax gain in history by cracking down on unreported property gains – not just from investors in China, but the U.S. and Europe as well.

“This is a huge amount of money that’s just uncollected.”

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read