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Vancouver proposes changes in tax policy to help small businesses

Staff are recommending a split assessment, meaning a new subclass to separate a property's existing and potential use. CP Images

Staff at the City of Vancouver have proposed a solution to ease the burden on mom and pop shops and small businesses struggling with rising tax bills.

Currently, businesses have to pay taxes on ‘highest and best use’, even if that means what’s above it is empty air space.

Staff are recommending a split assessment, meaning a new subclass to separate a property’s existing and potential use.

READ MORE: ‘A huge amount of stress’: Vancouver businesses say property taxes have them at the brink

For Brian Wener, co-owner of Tuesdays Fine Drycleaners in Kitsilano, he tells Global News he pays $33,000 for 1,850 square feet — a “ridiculous” amount according to the business owner.

“It’s a single storey, brick commercial building, very typical of every store along West 4th avenue, and there is air above us, they say is undeveloped potential, I believe it’s zoned or allowable for a four or five storey residential space.”

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The city’s report cites some challenges, among them the specificity of the subclass and its feasibility in all zones.

“Whether I fit into it or not, I think it’s a real good step in the right direction,” said Wener.

A new subclass will require the green light from the provincial government.

READ MORE: Vancouver council approves 2% tax shift from businesses to homeowners

The idea isn’t entirely new. An inter-governmental working group with representatives from the provincial government and local municipalities met and made the recommendation to be implemented by next year.

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If approved, each municipality would set its own rate or decide if they want to use it.

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