Vancouver agent under fire for advising clients to evade taxes

by Ephraim Vecina03 Aug 2016
A Vancouver real estate agent who advised clients on how to sidestep the new 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of B.C. homes is now under investigation by the provincial Real Estate Council.
Mike Stewart, who has worked as a top-selling agent in the Vancouver market since 2005, allegedly provided the tax evasion advice through a group email sent just a little over 24 hours after the new tax was announced by the provincial government, reported the Vancouver Sun.
“Most of the presales bought in the last 24-36 months have seen significant increases in value,” Stewart wrote in the email.
“It is possible in many cases to assign the presale purchase contract to a family member or friend who is a Canadian Citizen or Resident. For those of you who do not have that option, we may be able to sell the presale to a third party at a profit to you,” he added.
Real Estate Council spokesperson Marilees Peters said that Stewart’s strategy is definitely something that is strongly frowned upon by both the industry and the government.
“We’ve contacted this licensee to advise them they need to cease these advertisements and we will be looking into the matter very closely,” Peters stated.
While Stewart has yet to answer calls and text messages, he insisted in a radio interview with CKNW that the email wasn’t an incitement to tax evasion, but rather advice for presale contracts that have yet to be logged in the Land Titles Office.
“It is primarily a specific solution for a very specific situation. I want to be very clear I am not telling anybody about how to avoid a tax that is payable because that is illegal and that is not something that I do and that I am allowed to do,” Stewart said.
“What this entails is for international buyers who have bought pre-construction, so they have not registered at land titles. According to my understanding, these are exempt from the taxation rules,” he added.
“What we’re just saying is you could just assign it to a family member. Assign means to transfer ownership. This is all before it is registered at land titles, this is all before it is taxable.”

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