As BC Legislature Starts Fall Session, Burnaby Board of Trade Says Time is Running Out For A Property Tax Solution for Small Businesses

October 7, 2019
For Immediate Release

As BC Legislature Starts Fall Session, Burnaby Board of Trade Says Time is Running Out For A Property Tax Solution for Small Businesses

With MLA’s returning to the BC Legislature for the fall sitting, the Burnaby Board of Trade (BBOT) is calling on the provincial government to provide BC’s small businesses with relief from unsustainable property tax bills caused by BC Assessment’s “highest and best use” policy.  The BBOT says that time is running out for the province to make changes if they are to be implemented by municipalities in time for the 2020 tax year. The BBOT has been advocating for changes to the way property taxes are calculated to provide relief to local businesses, some of which have seen their property tax bills skyrocket because of soaring property assessments and redevelopment potential.

“As a business group, we’ve been working with the provincial government for months and months calling for a fix to this.  We’ve put forward a number of potential solutions including a split-tax system, a tax deferral program, and exemptions for long-standing community businesses. Something needs to be done about this,” says BBOT President & CEO Paul Holden. “It was this time last year when the government announced changes to property taxes for major industry with Bill 42, so we’re hopeful there’s still time for them to do something to support small, local businesses,” added Holden.

Businesses across the province can face unsustainable property tax bills because of the BC Assessment process which values a property’s “highest and best use”, not what it is actually used for.  This means businesses are paying property taxes today on the redevelopment potential of a property — the future condos and towers that could be built — instead of paying for what the property or business currently is. For businesses which are tenants and do not own their building, this tax is almost always passed on to them through ‘triple net leases,’ causing the local business to carry the tax burden without getting any of the future benefit of redevelopment.  This problem has threatened the viability of some businesses and caused others to relocate or close, especially in transit corridors or near other major redevelopments.

The BBOT has successfully lobbied the BC Chamber of Commerce to adopt its position as official policy of the largest and broadest business association in BC. In addition, this summer 11 chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across the Lower Mainland co-signed a letter to Premier John Horgan and Minister Selina Robinson calling for immediate action on this issue.  “This isn’t a problem contained to any one city or any one neighbourhood; this can impact businesses right across the province and for some, it is a real threat to their survival. No business should have to close its doors because of a tax bill,” added Holden.

Read more about the property tax issue and the BBOT’s advocacy efforts here