Vancouver COPE Cllr David Cadman wants the public to vote on whether to shift $23.8 million in property taxes from businesses onto residential homeowners. Cadman will submit a motion at the March 11 City Council meeting calling for a question on the tax shift to be put on the November civic election ballot.
"Before Council locks into a five-year process that will significantly change our tax structure, and make housing even less affordable for ordinary homeowners and renters, I am proposing that we let the citizens of Vancouver decide how the tax burden should be allocated," said Cadman.
The city’s Property Tax Commission is recommending that, over the next five years, Council "shift $23.8 million proportionately from Classes 2, 4, 5 and 6, to Classes 1, 8 and 9, in order to achieve the Property Tax Policy Review Commission’s recommended tax levy distribution of 48% non-residential and 52% residential."
Tax Class 6 covers 12,186 businesses, but does not differentiate between corporate bank towers and mom-and-pop stores. Class 5 are 346 light industries, while Classes 2 and 4 are 124 utility companies and heavy industrial operations.
Class 1 makes up Vancouver’s 164,182 residential properties, while Classes 8 and 9 include the city’s 13 farms and a few seasonal operations.
"Sam Sullivan has already raised taxes 15 percent since he has been in charge," said Cadman. "If we now approve this tax shift our own polling is telling us it will hurt women, lower income earners, renters, students and so many who are struggling to find affordable housing in Vancouver."
A just completed Ipsos Reid survey done for the City found that 46 percent of homeowners say they will have a hard time paying a higher tax. Those hardest hit include women (52 percent), those living in South East Vancouver (55 percent) and those in households earning less than $40,000 a year (54 percent).
The survey, not surprisingly, found that while 60 percent of residential taxpayers oppose a tax shift, 57 percent of business owners, many of whom don’t live in Vancouver, want to shift more of the tax burden onto homeowners.
The Fair Tax Coalition business lobby has claimed that high taxes in Vancouver are driving away small business. The survey, however, found only 9 percent of respondents say taxes are a factor in relocating. Fully 60 percent of businesses polled do say they want lower taxes because "it seems more fair," or that their business "should get a break (and) pay lower taxes," or "they will save" money. The Property Tax Commission was formed in 2006 by Mayor Sam Sullivan largely as a result of pressure by the Fair Tax Coalition.
Cadman’s motion would put a question on the November ballot asking voters if they want to keep the present balance where residential taxpayers pay 48 percent and business pays 52 percent of property taxes, or approve a 1 percent per year shift over five years that would result in residential taxpayers paying 52 percent and business 48 percent of taxes..