Tax breaks for forest fire victims proposed 

Two recently proposed tax breaks have been designed with one thought in mind – to help those British Columbians who were devastated by this summer’s forest fires.

One has since been defeated at the federal level and the second has just been submitted to the provincial government.

The first break was Private Members’ Bill C-325. It was an enactment to amend the Income Tax Act and would allow volunteer emergency workers to deduct $3,000 from their taxable income from any source. To qualify the workers had to perform over 200 hours of volunteer services.

But the bill was narrowly defeated by three votes.

"It’s disappointing," said John Reynolds, the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast and the Official Opposition House Leader with the Canadian Alliance.

"It was surprising to watch the front rows of the Liberal government vote against it. Federal Liberal Cabinet Ministers and MPs will have some explaining to do to their emergency service volunteers when they return to their ridings next week."

The Bill was designed to help communities attract and retain volunteers as well as compensate volunteers for their efforts.

The second tax proposal is the elimination of the Property Transfer Tax in the areas hardest hit by forest fires and the softwood lumber dispute.

The British Columbia Real Estate Association made this suggestion in a pre-budget submission to the provincial government on Oct. 1.

"Incentives are necessary in these areas to help them rebuild and encourage new investment," said BCREA President David Herman.

The BCREA recommends the PTT be eliminated for one year in the Interior and the north.

"Eliminating the PTT will help ease the tax burden on people in the heartlands," said Herman.

"It will also benefit future generations and contribute greatly to the government’s objective of attracting investors to B.C."

BCREA has repeatedly recommended this measure since the tax was first adopted in 1987 saying the PTT elimination would boost the construction industry and cement consumer confidence.

According to BCREA real estate sales are on pace to break the $19 billion record set last year. With stable inflation and the lowest mortgage rates in 47 years, experts characterize real estate as a secure, low-risk investment opportunity.

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