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Changes to B.C.’s property tax framework respond to COVID-19

Building on B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan, the Province is making temporary changes to B.C.’s property tax framework to provide financial support for businesses and local governments.

Property tax measures for local governments:

  • Local governments will have the ability to borrow, interest-free, from their capital reserve funds, freeing up billions in assets to cover temporary revenue shortfalls. They will have up to five years to build back the reserve funds.
  • Municipalities will be able to access school tax revenue collected for the Province until the end of the year. If a local government chooses to hold onto the school property tax, it must first be used to pay other taxing authorities, including regional districts.
  • Working closely with the Municipal Financing Authority (MFA), local governments will be able to extend their revenue anticipation borrowing for a second year past the current limit of one year. To minimize impacts on the MFA, the Province is asking local governments to first use the delayed school property tax payment and their own capital reserve funds before seeking short-term borrowing through the MFA.
  • Municipalities will still be required to make all their required remittances to other taxing authorities. Additionally, municipalities will be required to make the full annual payment to TransLink and BC Assessment in August 2020, rather than August and December.

Property tax measures for B.C. businesses:

  • Late payment penalties for commercial properties (classes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) will be postponed to Oct. 1, 2020.
  • The school property tax rates for classes 4, 5, and 6 were reduced by 50% in the Province’s initial economic response to COVID-19. Further reducing the provincial school property tax and introducing an equivalent tax reduction for classes 7 and 8 will lower the overall commercial property tax bill for most businesses by an average of 25%.  

Breakdown of tax relief for B.C. businesses:

  • Major industry (property class 4)
    • Budget 2020 mill rate: 3.72
    • March 23 mill rate: 1.86
    • April 16 mill rate: effectively zero
    • Tax cut as a per cent of total tax bill: 4%
  • Light industry (property class 5)
    • Budget 2020 mill rate: 3.72
    • March 23 mill rate: 1.86
    • April 16 mill rate: 1.0561
    • Tax cut as a per cent of total tax bill: 25%
  • Business/other (property class 6)
    • Budget 2020 mill rate: 3.72
    • March 23 mill rate: 1.86
    • April 16 mill rate: 1.1070
    • Tax cut as a per cent of total tax bill: 25%
  • Managed forest (property class 7)
    • Budget 2020 mill rate: 1.87
    • March 23 mill rate: 1.87
    • April 16 mill rate: effectively zero
    • Tax cut as a per cent of total tax bill: 20%
  • Recreation and non-profit (property class 8)
    • Budget 2020 mill rate: 2.29
    • March 23 mill rate: 2.29
    • April 16 mill rate: 0.7844
    • Tax cut as a per cent of total tax bill: 25%

Changes to British Columbia’s property tax framework are in addition to measures announced as part of B.C.’s Action Plan to support businesses, including:

  • Effective immediately, many provincial tax filing and payment deadlines are deferred to Sept. 30, 2020.
  • Businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt.
  • Payments for provincial sales tax (PST), employer health tax, municipal and regional district tax on short-term accommodation, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax are also deferred.
  • The scheduled increase to the carbon tax rate, and application of PST to e-commerce transactions and sweetened and carbonated drinks, will be delayed.

B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan complements federal measures to support businesses:

  • The federal government is providing up to 75% wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to three months, retroactive to March 15, 2020, to help businesses to keep and return workers to the payroll.
  • The maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program has been extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
  • The Business Credit Availability Program will provide $65 billion of additional support and credit solutions for individual businesses, including the Canada Emergency Business Account and the Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.
  • All businesses can defer, until Aug. 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020, and before September 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
  • All businesses, including self-employed individuals, can defer payments of GST/HST and customs duty until June 30, 2020.

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