Protestors – and interlopers – at a school tax rally in Vancouver in May. (KyleBryan/Twitter)

Mathematician not impressed by people complaining about B.C.’s school tax

Jens von Bergmann of Vancouver said says the province bungled the rollout

A Vancouver mathematician is feeling a little confused, and a lot snarky, about why British Columbians can’t seem to understand how the increased school tax works.

“I kept reading these stories about the people affected… and I thought maybe this [calculator] was needed,” Jens von Bergmann told Black Press Media.

“I think the fact that it is a wealth based tax means it’s new and it’s different.”

The school tax, announced by Finance Minister Carol James in February, would apply a tax rate of 0.2 per cent to the portion of a home’s assessed residential value that is between $3 million and $4 million, excluding stratified rentals. A tax rate of 0.4 per cent would apply to all home value over $4 million.

“It just really drives home this divide we’re facing in Vancouver,” said Von Bergmann.

“People that have bought quite a while ago and have seen their house value go up but don’t perceive that necessarily as liquid wealth and other people that are really struggling to pay rent in the city. I think the tax is trying to strike some sort of balance between the two.”

READ MORE: David Eby cancels town hall due to ‘safety concerns’ after school tax protest planned

The tax is due to start in 2019 but has already raised outrage, especially in Attorney General David Eby’s Point Grey riding.

Eby cancelled a town hall on the tax in early May, claiming that the opposition was encouraging non-registered attendees to crash the ticket-only event and making it unsafe.

MaryAnn Cummings, a Point Grey senior who’s against the tax, called it “predatory” and said that the tax “ignores an owners ability to pay it.”

But Von Bergmann says he doesn’t have much sympathy.

“I find it hard to relate to how this could constitute any form of cruel hardship,” he wrote in a blog post.

“And I am comfortably housed, I don’t want to imagine how someone struggling to pay rent in this city is supposed to by sympathetic to this.”

An owner of a $4 million house would pay $2,000 in school tax, according to the province. While Von Bergmann blames people’s poor math skills for not being able to grasp how little they’ll really pay in extra taxes, he also thinks the province bungled the rollout.

He brought up the example of David Tha, 72, who told the Vancouver Courier that he was cutting cable and eating less meat to afford the tax.

But although Von Bergmann called Tha “principled,” he noted that he could either sell, or just defer the taxes on his $6.75-million home, which had gone up from the $370,000 Tha bought it for in 1987.

“We have to conclude that he is very principled, but I am still not convinced that the single mom trying to make ends meet renting an East Van basement suite will be terribly sympathetic to Tha’s self-imposed budget constraints,” Von Bergmann wrote.

“Vancouver is indeed expensive, but with $6.7M in equity, almost all of which is untaxed capital gains, it is very hard to see how they could find a reasonable place to live to fit their middle class lifestyle.”


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