We hope you found this article interesting, enough to read to the bottom. Help us publish more in 2022.

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past two years, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

We’re on a mission to add 650 new monthly supporters to our ranks to help us have another year of impactful journalism – will you join us?

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Help us hit our year-end target of 650 new monthly supporters and join Tyee Builders today.
We’re looking for 650 new monthly supporters to fund our newsroom – are you one of them?

Small independent news media are having a moment – we’re gaining supporters, winning awards, and publishing more impactful journalism than ever. We’re starting to see glimmers of a hopeful future for independent journalism in Canada.

The Tyee works for our readers, because we are funded by you. We don’t lock our articles behind a paywall, and we focus all of our energy into publishing original, in-depth journalism that you won’t read anywhere else. It’s our full-time job because readers pay us to do it.

Over the last two years, we’ve been able to double our staff team and publish more than ever. We’re gearing up for another year and we need to know how much we are working with. Thousands of Tyee readers have signed up to support our independent newsroom through our Tyee Builders program, and we’re inviting you to join.

From now until Dec. 31, we’re aiming to bring aboard 650 new monthly supporters to The Tyee to help us do even more in 2022.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Help us hit our year-end target of 650 new monthly supporters and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

The Tweet that Reminded How Rich People Amass Homes

Michael Geller’s grousing about speculation tax paperwork was mocked. Really, he did us a favour.

By Paul Willcocks 21 Feb 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Paul Willcocks is a journalist and former publisher of newspapers, and now an editor with The Tyee.

Poor Michael Geller, the latest victim of a Twitter moment.

After CKNW host Lynda Steele tweeted that filling out the B.C. speculation tax form took her 4.5 minutes, Geller took umbrage. (The phrase “took umbrage,” while admittedly pompous, seems right in this situation.)

Sure, easy for you, said Geller.

But the form is a lot of work when you have to look up the names and registration dates of the corporations you’ve created to buy homes, he tweeted.


At first it seemed like parody. But Geller is a Vancouver architect, consultant and property developer who teaches at Simon Fraser University and has a column in the Vancouver Courier.

And he loathes the speculation tax, or as he has called it, the “Jealousy or Envy Tax.”

The tweet might have been an attempt to make one more argument against the tax, which is intended to encourage people to rent out second homes they don’t occupy by levying a tax equal to one-half of one per cent of assessed value.

But it didn’t work.

CBC reporter Justin McElroy shared Geller’s tweet and wrote “Just a hunch, but I imagine the NDP won’t mind complaints about the speculation tax that are based around having too many incorporation numbers to keep track of.”

Journalist and author Tom Hawthorn observed, “Next thing you know they’re going to be complaining about champagne corks damaging the priceless paintings aboard their yachts.”

Jacqueline™ responded to McElroy’s tweet. “Listen, Justin. I had to direct the staff at my estates to locate all the pertinent paperwork to lodge my filings so really, just stop. You do not know the daily hell we live with having to keep all our bits and pieces straight so we can’t just enjoy our wealth unimpinged.”

Geller soon deleted his tweet.

But in fact, we should thank him for reminding us of the important issues of tax avoidance, inequality and privilege.

The corporation angle

Why would people go to the trouble and expense of setting up corporations to buy their home (or homes)? Developers, like Geller, might choose to hold homes they plan to redevelop in corporations.

But another reason, writes Alan Madan, a Toronto accountant, is to avoid taxes.

The tactic — completely legal — works for people who have set up personal corporations. The intent of those corporations, long ago, was to help small business owners.

But the tax avoidance industry realized anyone — realtors, lawyers, architects, even managers — could set up personal corporations and pay much lower taxes than if they simply declared the same income. They pay less, and the rest of us pay more.

Among the benefits is the ability to stash income in the corporation without paying income taxes.

But, Madan asks, “Suppose that you would like to buy your dream home, but your corporation holds all of your savings. If you withdraw all of your savings, you will get hit with a huge personal tax bill, which you want to avoid at all costs. So, what should you do?”

“Using this simple strategy, you can utilize your corporate savings to purchase your new home WITHOUT paying any personal tax.”

You can read the details on the accountant’s website. In brief, you create a new corporation — “House Inc.” — in his example. Your personal corporation — “Money Bags Ltd.,” Madden suggests — loans the new corporation money to buy the house. You pay nominal rent to your landlord — the corporation you just created. And you’re way ahead of all those people who work for a wage and pay their taxes.

The bottom line is that people who legally use corporations for tax avoidance can buy a house with money that they have never paid personal income tax on, while their neighbours use the money left after they pay income taxes to support needed services.

Tax evasion and avoidance is not only widespread, costing the federal government between $9 billion and $48 billion a year, but considered normal practice by many with high incomes. A survey of Canada Revenue Agency tax professionals found that 90 per cent of them agreed “it is easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to evade and/or avoid tax responsibilities than it is for average Canadians.”

Paperwork for being poor

Geller deserves more credit. His tweet about the heavy burden of keeping track of all the corporations you’ve registered when applying for the speculation tax exemption led other people to note the far greater challenge of things like applying for disability assistance.

The checklist of required documents before you even start filling out the forms is daunting. Utility bills, two months of bank statements, proof of income from up to 18 possible sources, tax records, pay stubs, CPP record of contributions and on and on.

And lord help you if you have a question about the process. A BC Ombudsperson’s report last year found the average time waiting on the phone to reach a human was 43 minutes in 2016, and 96 per cent of callers waited longer.

Geller’s tweet likely reflected his reality. And, as the federal government found when it attempted to reduce personal corporation tax loopholes, that reality is shared by a lot of people with money and influence.

But most Canadians don’t have the option of creating personal corporations to avoid taxes, or the chance to own more than one home. (Increasingly, even owning one home seems impossible.)

It’s too bad Geller deleted his tweet. It was an important reminder of the roles privilege and inequality play in a supposedly egalitarian Canada.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll