Lethbridge changes 2020 property tax penalty dates in response to COVID-19

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Lethbridge City Council approves property tax deferrals, delayed penalties in response to COVID-19
WATCH: Lethbridge City Council unanimously approved of a bylaw that will allow property owners to defer property tax payments for three months without accruing penalties. Danica Ferris has more. – May 4, 2020

Lethbridge residents who own property have been granted a three-month reprieve on their 2020 property taxes if they need it.

On Monday, city council approved changes to its 2020 tax penalty dates to help property owners impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s taxes will still be mailed out at the end of May with their normal due date of June 30, but the city said penalties will not be applied to unpaid tax balances until Oct. 1.

“What this does is give people a break — those who need it — so that it will be interest-free if they have to delay their property tax payments,” said Mayor Chris Spearman.

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“We understand the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on our community, and property tax bills are coming at a time when some businesses are just beginning to reopen and residents may be returning to work,” Spearman said in a news release Monday afternoon.

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“By extending penalty dates, we believe this will give businesses and individuals more time to get back on their feet and make payments toward their bill without being penalized.”

The penalty for any outstanding tax balances after Oct. 1 will be three per cent. It will increase to four per cent on Nov. 1, and to five per cent on Dec. 1.

Property owners who can pay all or part of their taxes by the June 30 deadline are still encouraged to submit those payments on time.

Spearman said property tax funds are used by the city to pay for essential services such as police, fire, EMS, infrastructure and human services.

“The city may have to go into, in effect, overdraft or line of credit, which will mean an additional cost in terms of operating,” Spearman said.

“The city will have to pay interest on that, and ultimately taxpayers will have to pay for that. So we want to encourage people who can, to pay their taxes as per normal.”

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Last month, city council approved a $50 million increase to the city’s line of credit, hoping to create more of a financial buffer for the potential effects of COVID-19.

“We understand that COVID-19 has had a significant financial impact on many residents,” Larry Laverty, the city’s tax and assessment general manager, said in a news release.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know how you are going to pay your taxes, please contact us to talk about what payment options are available.”

2020 property tax notices will be mailed out at the end of May.

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