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Delegates talk taxes at UBCM annual conference

Property taxes, PPE and tax breaks for isolated residents were on the table.
A number of tax-related items were discussed at this week's UBCM convention. We've got your roundup.

Several tax issues came up at the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference Sept. 15, and delegates discussed and passed resolutions on vacant property taxes, taxes on personal protective equipment (PPE), breaks for British Columbians in isolated areas and liquor, property and sales taxes.

UBCM supports higher vacant property tax rates

Higher rates could persuade owners to develop or sell property

Municipalities should be able to tax vacant land in their areas at higher rates than non-vacant land, Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates voted Sept. 15 at the annual conference.

A resolution said some municipal councils with authority to do so choose to set tax rates on vacant land at a higher rate to encourage owners of vacant property to either develop the property or sell the land which may result in the development of the property under new ownership.

The resolution noted the provision for such action is provided for in the vacancy tax provision of the Vancouver Charter.

The resolution, approved by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions, called for a request to Victoria to review the Community Charter to amend the legislation to grant municipal councils authority to add a vacant land property tax.

The concept is not a new one for the UBCM.

In 2016, the UBCM asked the province to amend the Prescribed Classes of Property Regulation 438/81 to include prescribed classes for vacant land and vacant contaminated land that allows for a higher tax rate and/or flat taxes.

The UBCM resolutions committee also noted membership has endorsed resolutions seeking legislative amendments to authorize municipalities to set different property tax rates for land and improvements, in order to encourage the development and improved maintenance of derelict buildings and vacant land and improve housing affordability.

Make PPE sales tax exempt, UBCM tells Victoria

Mask mandate costs have impacted people’s finances: resolution

Pandemic personal protective equipment (PPE) for should not be subject to provincial sales tax, Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates voted Sept. 15 at their annual conference.

A resolution before delegates said the BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth under the Emergency Program Act mandated that non-medical PPE be worn inside indoor public spaces to assist in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

The resolution noted the mandate has increased financial pressures on the public.

As such, UBCM delegates approved the resolution, approved by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions, requesting Victoria eliminate the 7% percent provincial sales tax applied to non-medical, disposable or reusable PPE applied to these items at the point of sale.

The UBCM resolutions committee recommendation said delegates have in the past supported resolutions calling for waiving of the PST on the purchase of other items, including:

• fire trucks, fire protection and life-saving equipment and supplies; 

• electric bicycles;

• for local government infrastructure;

• local governments in general;

• district energy utility providers;

• equipment and supplies for search and rescue volunteers;

• sales of new or used vehicles with electronic stability control;

• fuel efficient vehicles, and;

• exemption for local governments when they purchase electricity generation machinery and equipment.

Give isolated British Columbians a tax break: UBCM

Apply same rules to residents as to government employees: resolution

Victoria should give British Columbians living in isolated areas an income tax break, Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates voted Sept. 15 at their annual conference.

“It is challenging to attract and retain employees in isolated communities due to a lack of services and the extra cost to obtain these services elsewhere,” a resolution before delegates said.

Further the resolution said, the provincial government has recognized the need to compensate provincial employees through an isolation allowance, which includes additional pay and vacation allowances for employees who work in posted isolated location points.

As such, the UBCM approved a resolution, approved by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions, to lobby the provincial government to provide a tax credit/deduction to workers living in communities included in the province’s list of isolated location areas.

This is not the first time the UBCM has advocated on behalf of those living in isolated regions.

In 2019, it asked the provincial and federal governments to provide a tax credit/deduction to all employees living in and around the same communities that those governments recognize with isolation allowances.

Delegates also endorsed a similar resolution in 2018 asking Ottawa to establish an application process for a rural living allowance to residents of rural communities meeting the criteria of a lack of medical services, government services or basic consumer supplies such as groceries, travel barriers and significant economic downturn as determined by the Treasury Board of Canada.

Members have also endorsed resolutions related to the increased travel costs facing rural communities to access medical and other services not readily available in smaller, more remote communities.

Delegates specifically endorsed a 2003 resolution requesting that the provincial Travel Assistance Program funding be extended to include travel costs for rural or remote residents requiring access to physiotherapy services. 

A similar resolution was endorsed in 2005.

Share liquor, property and sales tax, Victoria urged

Rising costs and downloaded responsibilities increasing municipal costs

Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates voted Sept. 15 in favour of asking Victoria to give them a greater share of revenues from the Sales Tax, Liquor Tax and Property Transfer Tax.

A resolution put to delegates at their annual conference said costs, regulations, and responsibilities for local governments are increasing at an unsustainable rate. Further, it said, some traditionally provincial or federal funded responsibilities have shifted to local government.

Further the resolution asked the province to support and simplify the creation of local fuel taxes for local governments as an additional revenue stream.

The resolution was approved by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions,

The UBCM resolutions committee noted delegates have endorsed resolutions asking the province to share a portion of the provincial fuel tax to support:

• active transportation infrastructure;

• road rehabilitation;

• growing needs of communities not capable of further increasing property taxes;

• transportation initiatives and road infrastructure and rehabilitation, and;

• road maintenance and transit services.

In another resolution, delegates called on Ottawa and Victoria to coordinate efforts across all grant program streams to establish more consistent and flexible application criteria and deadlines, simplified reporting requirements and provide funding for the general administration of grant programs.

That request was made because local governments in B.C. find themselves increasingly reliant on grants to support delivery of services, programs and projects in their jurisdictions. Further, delegates requested administration funds be added into grants for programs.

On Sept. 14, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart told UBCM delegates the provincial government should be giving communities revenue from both the Speculation and Vacancy Tax and the Property Transfer Tax.

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