A West Vancouver commercial property owner says businesses in West Vancouver are paying more than their fair share of the district's tax burden.
William Evans, owner of a multi-unit building in the 1800 block of Marine Drive, has written a letter to council, pointing out that his property tax notice this year came to about $38,231 on a building assessed at just under $3 million. Evans compared his tax bill to six randomly selected residential properties that are similarly valued.
"If the commercial property mentioned here was treated like a residential property, the property taxes would have been about $10,000, rather than the $38,231.41 that they actually are," Evans wrote in his letter. "As you are aware, the property taxes are usually passed on to these small businesses. Now it is getting harder for small businesses to survive and high taxation is not helping."
In municipal finance, the gap between residential and business tax rates is known as the business tax multiple. Businesses are expected to pay higher rates, generally, because they are a source of income, unlike homes.
Mayor Michael Smith said he agrees that tax bills are too high, but he added that the business tax multiple is not the reason.
"The multiple is actually the lowest in Metro Vancouver at 2.6, but the problem we have is our assessments have gone up so high," he said.
Smith said his council has plans to investigate the issue.
"We're going to look at it and do a business case and come up with a methodology as to what it should be, and then we will be able to go out to the business community and justify what the multiple is," he said.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business annually tracks and ranks business tax multiples across the province, and lobbies local governments to reduce the burden on business. The CFIB has calculated West Vancouver's business tax multiple for 2012 to be 2.38, up from 2.09 last year, which was one of the lowest in B.C.
Shachi Kurl, CFIB's director of provincial affairs for CFIB in B.C., said while West Van deserves praise for having a low multiple, the fact that it is climbing is troubling.
"We're definitely a little bit concerned to see a community where the gap is lower but is trending back up," she said. "The question is why is it increasing instead of holding flat or decreasing. That's a question that the mayor has to answer."
Kurl said small businesses have faced a tough few years including: three minimum wage increases; having to spend thousands converting to the Harmonized Sales Tax and back; the province reneging on a promise to cancel the small business corporate tax; and, the costs associated with Family Day beginning in 2013.
"When you look at the provincial burden and you look at the municipal burden, some of these businesses are down to their last dollars," she said. "Every time (the multiple) goes up, those are real dollars out of the tills and out of the pockets of small business owners who are just dealing with more and more and more."