As Canadians are continuing to deal with the financial stresses brought on by COVID-19, municipal governments, like the City of Vancouver, are no exception. In a recent press conference, Mayor Kennedy Stewart stated that the City is losing millions every week in revenue due to the effects of COVID-19 and the corresponding social distancing measures. The City continues to experience 80-100% decreases in revenue streams areas such as parking, by-law fines, gaming and recreation centres.
Included in the City’s stream of revenue, valued at approximately $324 million, are the collections from annual property taxes. These are taxes paid by property owners and lessees to the City, and are calculated based on the assessed value of the owned property, including land and the City’s current tax rates. Revenue generated from property taxes are used to fund:
- essential services such as police, fire fighting, and emergency rescue;
- recreation and community centres;
- libraries and parks; and
- services and support programs.
In the normal course, Vancouver owners and lessees pay annual property taxes in two installments: (1) advance taxes are always due the second business day of February; and (2) the balance of the taxes are always due the second business day of July.
While the first installment deadline has already passed, due to the financial impact of COVID-19 it was rumoured that more than half of Vancouver property owners and lessees were not expecting to pay full property taxes this year. In response to this the City agreed to consider delaying or deferring the second installment of the 2020 property taxes.
This week, the City confirmed that the 2020 payment deadline for both residential and commercial property taxes has been moved from July 3rd, 2020 to September 30th, 2020. Statements will be mailed out by June, and those who want to pay early may do so. Late penalties will take effect as of October 1, 2020.
As a reminder, B.C. residents can still apply to the Property Tax Deferent Program which is a low interest loan program that allows qualified B.C. homeowners to defer paying all or part of their property taxes on their principal residence. To apply for deferment of property taxes, the applicant must meet the individual qualifications, property qualifications and equity requirements. While an applicant can submit an application to defer unpaid property taxes at any time during the current taxation year, it is recommended that an applicant submit the application after they have received their property tax notice and before the property taxes are due.
For more information on B.C.’s Property Tax Deferment Program see: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes
While the City’s proposed solution above offers tax payers some short term comfort, it remains to be seen as to whether these measures will actually alleviate the long term effects of the financial strains of COVID-19. The City said that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to “significant revenue shortfalls and additional costs,” creating a 2020 budget deficit of $60 to $190 million. In mid-April, the mayor of Vancouver reminded us that “It’s illegal for Vancouver and other local governments to run deficits, so the only way we can stay afloat is with the help of the federal and provincial governments.” In a later interview, the mayor went on to hint that steep property tax hikes could be in the City’s future without financial aid from the federal and provincial governments. With Vancouver’s ongoing struggles to tackle the affordability crisis, it will be interesting to see what this means for property owners and lessees in the Vancouver.
For more information on this topic please contact:
Charlene R. Joanes