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Nova Scotia to launch program offering tax relief to hotel owners

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WATCH: After a dry tourism season during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nova Scotia government has announced new support for struggling hotels, motels and inns. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, they’ll have to have enough cash to pay their bills first – Oct 29, 2020

Nova Scotia is set to launch a tax relief program for the province’s hospitality sector after complaints the government wasn’t doing enough to support hotels and motels that have been hard hit by COVID-19.

The province announced the Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program on Thursday.

It’s a program that will provide operators of hotels, motels and inns that qualify with a 25 per cent rebate on payment of its 2020-21 commercial property tax.

Read more: Tourism industry stakeholders say province’s targeted financial support program ‘misses the mark’

In order to qualify businesses must meet the definition of roofed accommodation as set out in the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act, be registered as a host under the act, have more than five rooms and have paid their tax bill in full.

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The business must have, between April 1, 2020 and Oct. 31, 2020, incurred a year-over-year revenue loss of greater than 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

“We know that hotels, motels and inns have immediate cash flow needs because of the decline in visitors due to COVID-19,” said Business Minister Geoff MacLellan.

“They are facing commercial tax bills assessed on the previous year’s revenues with a significantly reduced ability to pay. This is another in our range of response programs designed to fill gaps in federal programming.”

Click to play video 'Tourism industry stakeholders say province’s targeted financial support program ‘misses the mark’' Tourism industry stakeholders say province’s targeted financial support program ‘misses the mark’
Tourism industry stakeholders say province’s targeted financial support program ‘misses the mark’ – Oct 21, 2020

The province also said new operators who were not in business before April 1 may still be entitled to a rebate if they can demonstrate a lower than 50 per cent occupancy rate since opening.

The program opens on Nov. 16.

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Megan Delaney, president of the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia (HANS), welcomed the news.

“This program is a great first step in opening conversations with the province about the need for relief that can assist us at this time,” Delaney said in a press release.

“The hotels need relief that will not only sustain us now, but that will work towards the regeneration of our industry in the future.”

Read more: Large N.S. tourism operators receive boost from provincial decision to back loans

The HANS was unhappy earlier this month after the province announced a financial aid program targeted at the tourism sector’s largest operators.

David Clark, an executive member of HANS and general manager of the Atlantica Hotel, told Global News earlier this month that the provincial government would work with municipalities to adjust property tax rates to reflect revenues during the pandemic.

“Right now we’re paying property tax based on revenues from two years ago. Two years ago, revenues were fantastic,” he said. “Right now revenues are down upwards of 80 per cent compared to last year… so it’s putting us in a very difficult position.”

The decision came too late for Tim Houston, Leader of the Nova Scotia PC Party.

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“After months of poor planning by the Nova Scotia government, I’m pleased to see the Liberals do in the second wave, what they should have done during the first,” he said in a statement.

“I note that the supportive quote in the release calls this “a first step.” On the eve of the eighth month of COVID-19, Nova Scotian businesses deserve more than a first step.”