COPE Cllr David Cadman says everyone should get a chance to vote on a drastic plan to shift taxes from business onto average homeowners. He wants the question included on the ballot in next year’s civic election.
Vancouver homeowners could face higher taxes if Vancouver City Council okays recommendations by the Property Tax Review Commission. In a September 18 report to City Council, Commission chairperson Stanley Hamilton recommended an annual one percent shift of property taxes from businesses and commercial operators onto residential homeowners.
Currently business pays 52 per cent of taxes. The Commission wants that reversed over the next five years until homeowners end up paying 52 percent. The NPA already started the shift last year by freezing business taxes while increasing residential taxes. Since Sam Sullivan assumed the mayor’s seat in 2005, homeowners have been hit with a whopping 15 percent tax jump, while the commercial rate has only risen by two points.
“Before we make this a firm policy we should put it on the ballot in the 2008 election as a tax shift will impact all residential taxpayers, both homeowners and renters,” said Cadman. “So far there is no real evidence to prove that business is leaving Vancouver because of high taxes. In fact, the numbers show that business is very healthy in the city.”
Hamilton admitted the Commission’s recommendations are largely based on input from the pro-business Fair Tax Coalition which has lobbied hard for tax cuts. The Coalition claims high taxes have forced businesses to abandon the city for municipalities with lower taxes. But under questioning by Cadman, Hamilton also admitted the "bleak picture painted in the media" about high taxes "overstates the case."
In fact, said Cadman, there are few cases of businesses leaving Vancouver because of tax rates. And Vancouver compares favourably with other cities such as Calgary and Toronto where businesses taxes are higher.
Instead of hiking taxes onto homeowners, former COPE city councillor Ellen Woodsworth wanted the Provincial Government to create a new small business tax class. Now all businesses, from the Royal Bank to the neighbourhood dry cleaner, are taxed in the same way. Creating a small business class would help vulnerable commercial operators without shifting the entire tax burden onto homeowners. The Commission, however, rejected establishing a small business class as being too hard to administer.