Despite coping with higher tax bills this year, the number of Calgary businesses that failed to file their returns by deadline remains on par with years past, according to the city.Around 810 businesses hadn’t paid their non-residential property tax bills, which were due June 28, by mid-August.Michael Perkins, manager of the city’s tax receivables-payables, said Tuesday that five per cent of all property tax accounts were still outstanding, totalling 27,000 accounts. Three per cent of those accounts were non-residential.“This is on track with prior years, and been consistent through years of both high and low economic growth,” Perkins said in an emailed statement.Last year, around $2.7 billion dollars in property taxes were billed. Three per cent of properties with balances still owed by the end of the year were non-residential accounts.There are typically no outstanding balances for non-residential accounts by the end of legislated tax recovery process, which is approximately three years, according to the city.“With the current trend matching past years, it indicates that we’ll see similar results to what we’ve seen in the past in regards to the end of the legislated tax recovery process,” Perkins stated.Commercial properties in neighbourhoods outside the city’s core have faced steep tax hikes since 2015, caused by property values plunging in the downtown.But steep hikes in commercial property tax bills this year, prompting uproar in June by small business owners, led to a number of steps by city council.It approved $60 million in budget cuts last month, which includes slashes to bus and CTrain service, fire services and affordable housing.
Kelly Doody, Owner of The Social School, said her Inglewood business faced a 400 per cent property tax increase this year. Brendan Miller/Postmedia
The cuts across 48 different service lines will result in job losses for 115 municipal employees.Council also voted to raise residential property taxes in April, settling on a 3.45 per cent hike on residential properties. The move amounted to a $105 increase to the average home’s tax bill in 2019 and assumed $27 million in unused provincial “tax room” to be applied to lower tax bills on businesses.Non-residential properties would see a decrease of 1.77 per cent in their taxes and $70.9 million will be used for a two-year small business grant program.Last week, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce called on the city to offer further relief for businesses by shifting more of the burden onto homeowners.A post on the chamber’s website urged the city to reduce the non-residential to residential tax ratio — currently sitting around 4.2 to 1 — to 3 to 1 by the end the current council’s term in 2021.It also said that the city should move to a fixed ratio of 2.8 to 1 by 2023.The chamber said the current ratio is one of the highest in Canada, forcing businesses to pay 53 per cent of all property taxes raised in the city, while homeowners shoulder 47 per cent of the split.As a result, 14,000 non-residential accounts “carry the majority share of the tax bill,” while 500,000 residential accounts carry less than half, according to the chamber.“While the chosen shift in tax burden begins the process of moving to a more equitable split, it falls behind other major cities like Edmonton where residential properties account for 52 per cent of the share and Toronto where the share is 63 per cent,” the post stated.“Refusing to address this ratio has led to the Calgary business community carrying the lion’s share of the property tax burden for years. A burden that was pushed onto small- to medium-sized businesses as the vacancy rates downtown reduced property values. Without immediate action, this problem could make matters worse for a very small portion of Calgary’s community who are bearing the brunt of filling in the gaps.”In April, a proposal by Coun. Jyoti Gondek to shift more of the tax burden onto homeowners, in order to pay for larger tax cuts for businesses, failed to win over a majority of her colleagues.The chamber also called on the city to sell city-owned land and find further longterm efficiencies — including privatizing services, hiring lower cost consultants and increasing operational effectiveness of administration departments — so that savings accrued could be used to offset property tax firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @SammyHudes