CMHC waged a media misinformation campaign to conceal research on a home equity tax, according to Access To Information records yesterday disclosed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Documents show the agency and its CEO Evan Siddall withheld details of research into Canadians who “get rich” on home ownership, and sought to discredit Blacklock’s reporting on the tax study.
Siddall yesterday did not comment. Records show Siddall specifically contacted researchers to produce a study on taxation. “I like the idea,” Siddall wrote in a May 22, 2019 email. “Very worthwhile.”
Homeowners currently do not pay tax on the sale of a primary residence. The Canada Revenue Agency since 2016 has required tax filers to report the sale of a primary residence under threat of an $8,000 fine even though sales are not taxable.
Blacklock’s last July 17 revealed CMHC awarded $250,000 to researchers at the University of British Columbia to study taxation of home equity. Siddall and his staff at the time told the Wall Street Journal the story was “misleading,” and assured a Yahoo Finance reporter the article was “not accurate.”
Siddall went further in posts on his Twitter account, calling the story “untrue and poor reporting,” “not true,” “horrible reporting” and “untruths by substandard news outfits without checking the facts,” “inaccurate, “a non-story” and “insistent, argumentative reporting that ignores the facts.”
“CMHC is NOT spending $250,000 to consider any tax on housing,” Siddall tweeted last July 20. “I know you got this info from media sources. You’ve been a victim of irresponsible reporting.”
However Taxpayers Federation records confirmed a home equity tax was the primary focus of the research despite CMHC denials. The agency in one briefing note A Place To Call Home Or An Investment Vehicle? wrote: “Why deliver? Remember purpose. Before Covid-19 housing costs had shot higher than many could afford. Why? In part because we allowed them to, knowing many Canadians bank on profits from home ownership to secure their financial future and gain wealth.”
“We must unravel this pre-existing catch-22,” wrote staff: “We need to rethink the policies that, by encouraging the financialization of housing, push the cost to buy or rent a home even further out of reach.”
Professor Paul Kershaw of UBC, the lead researcher, in a memo to CMHC spelled out the equity tax plan. “Currently there is an inequitable and uneven playing field,” wrote Kershaw.
“One key source of this intergenerational inequality is tax policy that privileges home ownership and shelters housing wealth, especially in principal residences, from taxation,” wrote Kershaw. The research “will examine tax and other public finance policy opportunities to level the intergenerational playing field.”
Kershaw in a June 19, 2019 email to CMHC complained homeowners were trying to “get rich,” and that Parliament was “sheltering much housing wealth from taxation.” Kershaw added, “There is a potential for a tax shift.”
The taxpayer-funded research has not been released to date. Professor Kershaw in a 2019 podcast with CMHC’s Siddall complained that “some people won the lottery” on home ownership.
“People who bought homes decades ago now, especially in our big cities, can be living in multi-million dollar properties,” said Kershaw. “Amazing, eh?” replied Siddall. “Amazing.”
“Home ownership has become a driving source of inequality in Canada,” said Kershaw. “For sure it has,” replied Siddall.
Kershaw yesterday did not comment.