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New COVID-19 supports for businesses, local governments

Finance Minister Carole James
Finance Minister Carole James

The province is providing relief for businesses by reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25 per cent, 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, in a news release. “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 province-wide 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:

  • further reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties to achieve an average 25 percent reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief. This enhances the 50 per cent 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 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.”

Maja Tait, Union of B.C. Municipalities president, said: “Local governments across B.C. are working hard to support the implementation of COVID-19 orders, while ensuring residents have access to the services they need in these challenging times. The measures announced today provide additional relief to small business and will free up funds for local government. UBCM will monitor the impact of these measures on the state of local governments finances, and work with the Province to ensure that local governments have the resources to sustain their communities.”

Changes to British Columbia’s property tax framework complement federal measures and build on the $5 billion B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan that provides income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services.

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