Vancouver to mull "grace period" for property tax payments

Apr 8 2020, 5:01 pm

The City of Vancouver is considering a deferral for this year’s property tax payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart told reporters on Wednesday that city staff recommends a “grace period” of nearly two months. This year’s property taxes are due on July 3, 2020, but could be pushed back to September 2, 2020.

The change, however, will have to be discussed and approved by city council during next Tuesday’s meeting because a by-law amendment would be needed.

According to a city report, the suggestion is one of the many short-term actions that Vancouver is taking in response to the pandemic.

The city is also asking that the provincial government expand its Property Tax Deferment Program to support residents, businesses, and non-profit agencies.

The report explains that if Vancouver had a high delinquency rate of tax payments, the city would also have trouble paying for taxes owed to other authorities such as the Provincial School Tax, TransLink, BC Assessment Authority, the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and the Municipal Finance Authority.

By law, and unlike the provincial and federal levels, municipal governments cannot go into deficit or borrow money in order to balance its operating budget.

The City Manager writes that similar to other municipalities in British Columbia, approximately 75% of Vancouver’s operating budget stems from property tax and utility fees. The remaining amount comes from revenues such as parking, permits, and community programs.

Stewart notes, however, that he is not considering reducing Vancouver’s property tax, which was increased by 7% last December.

“If we, for example, drop that [increase] to zero, that would immediately knock $60 million out of our budget,” he told reporters. “That would mean an immediate cancellation of services.”

“That’s why we need the province to ramp up their property tax deferment program and to extend it to all property owners including business owners and non-profits.”

City council will discuss the deferral on Tuesday, April 14.