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BC Government announces additional supports for businesses, local governments

(Files by Brendan Pawliw)

The Province is providing enhanced relief for businesses by reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25%, along with new measures to support local governments facing temporary revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19.

“We know that B.C. communities and businesses are suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance.

“That is why our B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan is focused on the health and safety of British Columbians, direct support for people and businesses and economic recovery for our province. We are providing further support by making additional temporary property tax changes to provide provincewide relief for business and local governments to help weather the pandemic, continue to deliver the services people count on and be part of our province’s economic recovery.”

The Province is taking significant new steps to support B.C. businesses, non-profits, and other organizations through the pandemic by:

* further reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties to achieve an average 25% reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief. This enhances the 50% reduction to the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4, 5, and 6 as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

* Postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 to Oct. 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty.

Responding to key concerns from local governments, the Province is addressing cash flow and revenue shortfalls with new measures that provide additional support:

* authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries.

* delaying provincial school tax remittances until the end of the year. This will provide significant relief to local governments facing cash flow issues.

* providing local governments greater flexibility to carry the debt for an additional year.

* These measures will provide local governments with the resources to meet their operational costs and required remittances to regional districts, regional hospital districts, TransLink and transit authorities, BC Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority, and other taxing authorities. This will ensure that other minor taxing authorities can count on receiving the full amount they bill to municipalities and the Province’s surveyor of taxes before Aug. 1, 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant financial impacts on all levels of government. It’s going to take hard work from both municipalities and the provincial government, but working together we will get through this,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“Many local governments have already shown leadership by taking steps to help people and businesses and maintain services while addressing their finances. With these new measures, we are giving local governments new tools as a first step to ease their financial burdens and that of businesses in their communities now, and as we look to recovery in the months to come.”

Building on B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan, the Province is making temporary changes to B.C.’s property tax framework to provide financial support for businesses and local governments.

Property tax measures for local governments:

* Local governments will have the ability to borrow, interest-free, from their capital reserve funds, freeing up billions in assets to cover temporary revenue shortfalls. They will have up to five years to build back the reserve funds.

* Municipalities will be able to access school tax revenue collected for the Province until the end of the year. If a local government chooses to hold onto the school property tax, it must first be used to pay other taxing authorities, including regional districts.

* Working closely with the Municipal Financing Authority (MFA), local governments will be able to extend their revenue anticipation borrowing for a second year past the current limit of one year. To minimize impacts on the MFA, the Province is asking local governments to first use the delayed school property tax payment and their own capital reserve funds before seeking short-term borrowing through the MFA.

* Municipalities will still be required to make all their required remittances to other taxing authorities. Additionally, municipalities will be required to make the full annual payment to TransLink and BC Assessment in August 2020, rather than August and December.

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