City of Powell River Council recommends tax deferral program expansion

Councillor George Doubt advocates for larger participation

City of Powell River councillors have voted to request the BC government expands tax deferral opportunities for 2020 property taxes.

At the March 26 council meeting, councillor George Doubt introduced a motion that the city request the government of BC to review and expand opportunities for deferring 2020 property taxes so those deferrals are more widely available, and that the city request the provincial government to reduce any fees and interest charged on 2020 property tax deferrals.

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Doubt said he had been thinking about how to reduce the impact of this year’s taxes on Powell River taxpayers.

“One way to do that might be through the provincial property tax deferral program,” said Doubt. “There are two current deferral programs that I’m aware of: one is for seniors and the other one is for families with children. They can defer their property taxes for a small interest rate and a small fee, and can defer for long periods of time.

Doubt said anyone unemployed between now and July 1, when taxes are normally due, could apply to the provincial program and defer their taxes to the future.

“You wouldn’t have to pay those taxes but the province would actually pay the revenue to the city,” he added. “It solves the problem if someone doesn’t have the money to pay and they would not be delinquent on their taxes, and wouldn’t have to pay the 10 per cent penalty that comes with that, and with all of the problems of worrying about tax sales down the road.”

Doubt said the motion before council talked about expanding that program and making it available to people to whom it isn’t available now. He said it is something that should be thought about and would protect the city’s revenue.

“Perhaps the provincial government is thinking about that right now but I would like to see them encouraged because I think it would be good for city taxpayers,” he added.

Mayor Dave Formosa said this question was asked directly in a conference with government officials. He said he thought this was something the ministry of finance could get out fairly rapidly.

Formosa added that they did tell those in the meeting that something was coming, and said the ministry was working on putting a package together and sending it to chief financial officers and councils so there is a comprehensive package to offer residents and businesspeople.

“Signing a letter is a moot point but I’d be happy to do it,” said Formosa.

Doubt said he’d heard the government was developing a package where businesses could pay taxes in September rather than July.

“That doesn’t go quite as far as my recommendation,” added Doubt.

Councillor Rob Southcott said he didn’t see any reason why the proposal wouldn’t work. He said businesses have a value that would be the security for deferral programs. He asked city chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier if there was any reason the province would not entertain a program like this.

Langenmaier said property tax deferrals are like a loan to the homeowner and a form of equity lending. To be eligible to defer taxes, a property owner has to own a certain percentage of their land and buildings, he added.

Langenmaier said it would be possible to bring deferrals to commercial properties because there is value there.

“Even if your business is shut and you own 100 per cent of the property, there is still equity in there,” added Langenmaier. “From that standpoint I don’t know why we haven’t seen it yet. Maybe there hasn’t been a big push for it.”

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she was guessing the province was looking at extending deferrals.

“I know the original intent was for people who bought a house for $35,000 in the 1940s and now it’s worth $3 million and that was to help those people out,” said Hathaway. “It’s a good vehicle in these odd times. I would be surprised if the government hasn’t thought of it but there is no harm in asking and requesting they expand it further to businesses that are struggling.”

Formosa said he was of the opinion that the government was working on this. However, sending a letter never hurts, “so let’s do it,” he added.

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