Tax relief for small businesses, non-profits, arts and culture groups

A new Interim Business Property Tax Relief program will allow local governments to provide immediate property tax relief for the 2020 tax year.

This relief will apply to small businesses and non-profits, as well as arts and culture organizations, that are struggling with high lease costs as a result of years of rapidly increasing property values.

“Years of an out-of-control real estate market have resulted in unexpected tax spikes for many small businesses that pay property taxes as part of their commercial leases,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, on Monday. “People have been asking for help, and today we’re offering a way for local governments to provide that help. This new program empowers local governments to provide immediate relief to the small businesses and organizations most affected by skyrocketing property taxes in their communities.”

Recognizing the challenges look different in each municipality, this tax relief program will allow municipalities to exempt, by bylaw, a portion of the assessed value of those properties most affected by this issue in a way that works for their community.

The changes enable significant relief for small businesses and others who have been calling for changes for over a decade. It will reduce the taxes paid by these properties, reducing lease costs for tenants with triple-net leases. The legislation gives municipalities maximum flexibility to tailor the way they identify properties in need of relief in their communities and to set the amount of tax exemption for selected properties.

To help communities meet the timeline to deliver relief for the 2020 tax year, ministry staff have worked with interested communities since advance notice of the legislation was given in January. The Province has worked with municipalities to help them prepare for implementation and will further support them by providing a model bylaw, staff advice, a user guide and procedural changes.

This program is an interim solution while the Province continues to work with local governments and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, as well as business and community stakeholders on a permanent solution that will work for communities of all sizes throughout the province.

This legislation, the municipal affairs and housing statutes amendments act, also introduced four other minor amendments to the Assessment Act, Local Government Act, Community Charter and the Vancouver Charter.

Michael Hind, CEO, Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, said: “We appreciate the provincial government’s efforts to address the large commercial-property tax increases threatening many small businesses around B.C., including in the Tri-Cities. The proposed interim measures are a step in the right direction, but we continue to stress the need for the provincial government to develop a comprehensive long-term solution.”

Brian McBay, Executive Director, 221A and Chair, City of Vancouver Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, Cultural Spaces Committee, said: “Vancouver is being emptied out of music and performing art venues, art galleries and artist studios. The city reported over 20 cultural spaces with approximately 400 artists were closed in the last year. The cultural sector is in a crisis and the Province’s tax measures are the right step toward halting the closure of art spaces that bring joy and humanity to our democracy.”