As residents and businesses in communities all over Newfoundland and Labrador deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19, many municipalities are stepping up to offer some form of tax relief.
The City of Corner Brook is offering two months of interest relief on unpaid commercial and residential property taxes for March and April and business taxes owing for those two months. It’s also taking things one step further and giving businesses impacted by COVID-19 a two-month tax holiday.
Mayor Jim Parsons said this is a first for the city and possibly the only measure of its kind being taken in the province. He said the city wanted to look at what relief it could give that really focuses on the businesses that needed it. The $500 per month tax holiday could help 200 to 250 businesses in the city.
Parsons said it’s a targeted approach that will be available to 22 categories of businesses — things like restaurants and bars, personal services, hotels, taxis and hotels.
With the measures it’s implementing the city could see about $300,000 in lost revenue.
“We don’t have a lot of room to move when it comes to revenues as a city. We don’t have deep pockets. We need tax revenue to operate,” said Parsons. “But the problem is a lot of small businesses are going to be hurt by this and we know we’re going to lose some businesses off our tax roll because of this. We want to minimize that impact for future years as much as we can.”
The tax holiday is by application and Parsons said the process is a simple one. If a business has already paid their 2020 taxes they will have a credit applied to their 2021 tax bill.
Parsons said small businesses are important employers in the city. They are also a part of the city’s tourism product and also provide sponsorship to local sports teams.
“Just from a purely tax revenue point of view, we want to encourage as many of these businesses and help them come out the other end of this thing, whenever it is.”
The measures are welcomed by the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade.
“I think that anything any level of government can do to support small businesses is critical,” said board president Keith Goulding.
Nationally, Goulding said, 75 to 85 per cent of the Canadian workforce is employed by small- and medium-sized businesses.
“So, you have to support that industry.”
He said co-ordinated efforts by all levels of government can help and the measures that have been put forward are appreciated. He’s pleased the city is doing something, but noted it is short-term.
“I think the effects of COVID on businesses is going to be a little long-term now.”
And while there could be a possible return to normal by summer, the impact on businesses will be longer. He’s concerned there may be gaps in the list of businesses identified by the city. He’d didn’t see things like tourism and service businesses, including web developers, in the list and is hopeful they might be implicitly covered.
“Maybe they should open that up to all businesses and not set up categories,” said Goulding. “The tax holiday is the more crucial piece for small businesses. We should be doing more of that and expanding it and maybe even enlarging this in some way shape or form.
“If we resume business as usual by Canada Day, how business is going to operate ... it’s not going to be our old usual, it’s going to be a new normal and it’s going to be different. Businesses are going to need to adapt to that but they’re going to need the flexibility and support of the municipal government to help them through that.”
For details on what the City of Corner Brook is doing visit https://www.cornerbrook.com/tax-relief/
What other municipalities are doing:
-The Deer Lake Town Council has extended the March 31 deadline for interest free tax accounts to June 30.
-The Town of Pasadena is deferring the tax deadline including residential, commercial, and business taxes, until the end of June and there will be no interest charged until June 30.
-The Town of Stephenville has extended tax deadlines to April 30 and interest charges will be waived for this period.
-Grand Falls-Windsor is waiving interest on taxation up until Aug. 31 for business tax, commercial property tax, residential tax and water and sewer tax.
-Deadline to obtain discounts through the low-income supplement discount or senior’s discount are also extended to Aug. 31.
-Town of Clarenville is extending the interest-free municipal tax payment deadline to June 30.
-The Town of Conception Bay South is offering tax relief for residents and businesses through deferred tax payments.
-Upon request, any resident or business who has signed up for the Town’s Equal Payment Plan is eligible to have their payments deferred until July 2020, without penalty.
-The Town of Paradise is offering to defer all residential, commercial and business tax payments until the end of June, with no interest charged until June 30.