Small-business group complains about tax rate
It’s a bit like a broken record for Mayor Peter Milobar.
A new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has once again blasted municipalities over the tax rate levelled at small businesses, but it’s not a new criticism for the mayor.
“After a while, quite frankly, I’m answering the same thing the same way every single time the CFIB comes out with the same report,” Milobar said.
According to the CFIB, small-business owners across the province pay, on average, 300 per cent more in property tax than residents with the same property value.
In Kamloops, small businesses pay 3.12 times more property tax than residents, slightly higher than the provincial average.
That number did drop from a 3.3 ratio in 2009.
However, Milobar favours comparing the percentage of the tax bill paid by each class, noting business pays 28 per cent of the overall bill.
“Until one side agrees on the way the numbers are reached, there will be a difference of opinion,” he said of the CFIB’s report.
Milobar believes the tax rate for businesses in Kamloops is fair, arguing it has remained stable for the last 10 years.
With initiatives like tax-incentive areas in the city, the mayor said Kamloops tries to be business-friendly.
“If all you’re going to do is look at a property-tax bill, I guarantee almost every rate class will say they wish that their taxes were lower,” Milobar said.
But, the CFIB is calling on municipalities across the province to control spending.
Shachi Kurl, the CFIB’s director of provincial affairs, said cities need to take a hard look at where there may be “fat to trim” and look within their budgets before raising revenue to pay for services.
She also contends businesses are not consuming the amount of services for which they’re paying.
In an effort to level the playing field for small businesses, the CFIB report makes three recommendations.
The organization is calling on municipalities to voluntarily move to a t2:1 tax ratio for business and for the province to create a municipal auditor general who will independently look at the books to determine if taxpayers are getting value for their dollars.
The CFIB also wants the province to reinstate the right of business owners to have a second vote for city council.
Kurl did credit Kamloops for a slight drop in the ratio, but said more can be done.
“It’s progress of inches and what we need is progress of miles,” she said.
As for why the business sector pays a higher ratio of tax than residential-rate payers, it was a question for which neither the mayor nor the CFIB had a clear answer.
Milobar called it a “historical number,” noting businesses that make a profit can write off a portion of their property taxes.
He also suggested, based on data he’s heard, on average, small business consumes 23 per cent of services provided by the municipality, which is close to matching what they cover for the overall tax bill.