B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson (Black Press files)

COVID-19: B.C. business, local governments get further tax relief

Commercial school tax reduced, late payments extended

An additional cut to commercial property tax for schools will produce an average 25 per cent reduction in 2020 property taxes to cope with COVID-19, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says.

With property taxes due in July and many businesses shut or facing significantly reduced cash flow due to the coronavirus pandemic, late payment deadline for property taxes is extended to Oct. 1 without penalty, James announced April 16.

With local governments facing a drop in revenue, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the deadline for municipalities to pay the reduced school tax to the province has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020.

Local governments are also authorized to borrow interest-free from their existing capital reserves to cover payroll and other operating costs, and to carry debt for an additional year. They will have up to five years to restore their reserve funds.

James noted that the federal government has announced its intention to extend small business rent and lease relief, one of the more pressing issues with businesses closed or reduced in their ability to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on movement and trade in all but essential services.

School property tax was reduced by 50 per cent in B.C.’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, using a $5 billion fund that was established by a B.C. legislature vote in March. The additional measures are also coming from that fund, James said.

The school tax reductions apply to major industry (property class four), light industry (class five), and other business (class six). Two more classes have been added, managed forest (class seven) and recreation and non-profit (class eight).

The B.C. government has also launched a new support service for small business with a dedicated website at covid.smallbusinessbc.ca and phone support line. Effective April 16, advisors are available Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Pacific time) and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1-833-254-4357. Inquiries can also be emailed to covid@smallbusinessbc.ca, or raised on the live-chat feature available on the dedicated website.

“Many local governments have already shown leadership by taking steps to help people and businesses and maintain services, while addressing their finances,” Robinson said. “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.”

Maija Tait, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities and mayor of Sooke, said the latest measures will give relief to small businesses and 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,” Tait said.

RELATED: Trudeau announces rent assistance, loans for small business

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@tomfletcherbc
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