The VUT Is Nothing. The Seinfeld Of Bureaucracy

 

This is a bureaucrat’s conception of a good idea.

The vacant unit tax accomplishes nothing. It creates more paperwork for everyone.

Don’t city bureaucrats realize that people have better things to do than move memos from the inbox to the outbox.

And if you don’t fill out this form, you get blasted with taxes.

People are out there, particularly parents, just barely keeping everything together what with children’s activities and going to work.


Then the city throws them this anchor. For nothing.

Basic services, particularly transit, are in a shambles. The city spends $419 million on the failure that is Lansdowne. Yet that money doesn’t even remotely solve the problems of Lansdowne. We’re throwing millions at a problem that doesn’t have a solution. Nothing.

And despite the mess that is the City of Ottawa, bureaucrats have time to come up with this.

This is the municipal equivalent of Seinfeld … a show about nothing.

 

George & Jerry Pitch A Show About Nothing | The Pitch | Seinfeld

 

The VUT is a tax about nothing. You answer your door. You’re there. So what? Nothing.

You don’t answer your door. The unit is vacant. So what? Nothing.

What does this accomplish in the real world? Nothing.

And look … a $10,000 fine for nothing.

Ken Gray

 

This is a release from the City of Ottawa:

It’s time for Ottawa homeowners to complete their online Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) forms at ottawa.ca/vut for each residential property they own before the March 21 deadline. A $250 late fee will be applied to all declarations filed after the deadline.

To complete the declaration, visit ottawa.ca/vut, click Submit declaration, and log on with the roll number and access code found on last year’s property tax bill or information notices that will be sent by email or Canada Post.  Email notices will be sent to those who provided their email addresses on last year’s declaration. Please also check your junk folder.

Residents registered with MySeviceOttawa can go directly to the declaration from their property tax account.

Alternate and accessible declaration options available
The City has set up declaration options for residents who require accessibility related supports, and for those without access to the internet or digital devices – like computers, tablets and other hand-held devices:

Telephone option
Call 613-580-2444 where an agent will help complete your declaration over the phone
Call 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service

 

In-person option at Client Service Centres
City’s Client Service Centres can provide in-person assistance for completing the declaration. Priority will be given to scheduled appointments. Visit ottawa.ca/csc for locations and appointments. the hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The three rural centres are open one day a week from 8:30 am to 4 pm.

All property owners must declare
Even though the VUT does not apply to principal residences, it is mandatory for all residential property owners to complete the declaration every year. Principal address property owners only need to provide their name, contact information, select principal address and click submit. Full participation ensures the City’s data is up-to-date and accurate.

Helping make housing more affordable
The intent of the VUT is to help address Ottawa’s current housing supply shortage. It acts as an incentive for residential owners to either rent or sell vacant properties, adding more units helps stabilize and lower market prices and rents. Revenues generated from VUT will go directly to City’s budget for constructing more affordable and supportive housing.

Residential properties vacant 184 or more days may be subject to tax
Properties that are not used as a principal residence and were vacant 184 or more days in the previous calendar year could be subject to the one per cent tax on the final property tax bill.

Residential property owners need to indicate if their property was vacant 184 or more days during 2023 calendar year. The owner can select any of the specified exemptions – such as legal or estate issues, hospitalization or death of owner, or renovations – that is applicable for their reason for the vacancy. The owner must also provide relevant information, like a building permit or application number, court order number, date of death or the name of the person in care and name of the health or senior care facility.

False claims could receive fine
If a declaration is not filed – even if it is a principal residence – it will be deemed vacant and the VUT will be applied. All declarations will be eligible for an audit and false claims could result in a fine up to $10,000.

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6 Responses

  1. Me says:

    Their first email had incorrect web links to make your declaration, after over an hour they reissued the email with the correct link. What a waste of taxpayers time and a confusing process overall. As a taxpayer I greatly resent this wasteful process . How many times must the City of Ottawa try to get things right. Gee, let’s review their other great successes such as Lansdowne Park and the LRT! Stop such nonsense!

  2. Bruce says:

    ONE key line stands out within the city release. ‘PLEASE CHECK YOUR JUNK FILE’ Nuf said

  3. sisco farraro says:

    Thank you Gerry. How about getting someone at city hall with a sense of humour (I realize we’re probably heading into the realm of science fiction with a potential pitch). The pitch could begin with “how many 3-letter acronyms begin with the letter V?” And . . . . . . take it from there. If nothing else the VUT (ha ha ha – see, it’s working!) could potentially create a few bureaucratic jobs. Perhaps the fines levied might even pay for those jobs. The jobs will also allow people to receive a pension from the city of Ottawa if the VUT remains in effect for 25 years, etc, etc. I think we have might have some unexplored potential here.

  4. Ron Benn says:

    “To complete the declaration, visit ottawa.ca/vut, click Submit declaration, and log on with the roll number and access code found on last year’s property tax bill or information notices that will be sent by email or Canada Post.”

    I was supposed to keep last year’s property tax bill?!! To use what I may (or may not) have thought was a one time use access code. You know, like standard cyber security type control features.

    What about the people (like me) who did not keep what they otherwise considered to be a piece of clutter. The ones who will be away in the weeks leading up to the March 21 deadline and thus not around to receive that message from Canada Post? The people who did not register for notifications during the first year of this adventure in city hall job maintenance. The people for who the term snow bird was coined. How many retired federal public servants meet that category?

    What about the people who bought their current home during the last six plus months? The ones that do not have a copy of the property tax bill from before they owned their home. The same ones who did not register for an e-mail notification because, well they did not own their home at that time?

    Seriously folks. Who came up with this idea? Who approved it?

    Good luck (sarcasm alert) handling the volume of calls and e-mails about the automatic fines levied on those who did not anticipate the series of steps they should have anticipated taking to be compliant with a morally corrupt (for that is what a negative billing option is) way of handling a very small problem.

    Good luck to the city managers who are tasked with meeting whatever metric the city has regarding the timely handling of service calls (assuming the city even has one). I hope that a portion of your bonus rests on meeting that metric. Hell hath no fury like a retired public servant scorned, because they have time on their hands.

    My sympathies to the first term councillors, and more to the point their ever suffering staff, in handling the incoming calls and e-mails from irate residents. This is not specifically your fault, but when something disgusting hits the fan, everyone gets sprayed.

    As for the current councillors who were on the previous council, this is but another example of what happens when you fail to meet your obligation of oversight. For you, I offer no sympathies. I do feel sorry for your staff, though. You had best figure out how to reward them in a manner that is consistent with the extremely detailed way the city dictates the giving of gifts, bonuses and the like. You know, the way that “important” procedures are developed. Here’s a hint. Tim Hortons gift cards aren’t going to cut it.

  5. Andrew says:

    If your house was occupied from January 1 to July 7th you can certify you met the bylaw requirement of 184 days occupied. Yet the City makes us wait 6 MORE months to declare electronically it was occupied through our Service Ottawa account. Why do we not open the declaration availability from July 10th Onward? It is electronic and one programming step from being done, and only needs to be available to those who meet the requirement. That would give everyone who meets the requirement 8 months to make the declaration instead of 3. The City needs to get with “pubic service” instead of complicating things.

  6. The Voter says:

    Given that this is a leap year, will the occupancy requirement change when we have to report in next year? I just want to be prepared.
    If I rent out the house and the tenants go to points south for the winter, am I responsible for keeping track of the days they’re absent? Will provincial landlord and tenant legislation allow me to add the extra tax bill to their rent?

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