News » Whistler

No plans for GST rebate, gas tax

Two federal tax initiatives created to increase municipal funding will put more money in municipal coffers this year, but as of yet no specific plans for the money have been put forward.

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Since 2004, Canadian municipalities were entitled to claim 100 per cent of GST (Goods and Services Tax), as well as the federal portion of the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) paid on certain goods and services. Previously governments were only able to claim 57.14 per cent of GST and HST payments.

For the calendar year ending Dec. 31, 2004, an additional $373 million in rebates was paid to municipalities across Canada, bringing the total size of the rebate up to $1.2 billion.

Of that money, an additional $46 million went to municipalities in B.C., with Whistler receiving a total $336,785 rebate.

According to Bill Barratt, deputy administrator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the GST rebate has traditionally gone back into capital expenses, and any additional rebate this year will likely go into the general account.

"When we used to budget we’d account for the fact we were getting the rebate…but now we know there is no GST payable, it comes back, we’ll factor that in as well," said Barratt.

In other words, the rebate will not be looked at as a refund because it will be factored into costs from the beginning.

While every bit helps, Barratt doesn’t expect the additional 42.86 per cent GST rebate to make that much difference to overall operations.

"As far as the operations side goes, it’s not that significant because it applies more to our purchase of goods, when right now our biggest component is labour," he said.

The second federal tax initiative that will benefit Whistler was passed in the recent federal budget and should kick in this year. That deal will see 2.5 cents per litre of gas taxes returned to municipalities over the next five years, based on numbers taken from previous years.

The deal was originally supposed to be 1.5 cents per litre, but it was raised to 2.5 cents prior to the budget vote at the insistence of the federal NDP party. Without that extra funding and billions of dollars in other concessions the NDP would not have backed the Liberal Party’s budget, the budget would have failed, and Canada would be heading into another federal election.

At just 1.5 cents, Whistler stood to gain $840,808 over five years for transportation and infrastructure projects.

The RMOW has received documents about the gas tax rebate, but have yet to see the money.

While the additional funds will help greatly with transportation costs, Barratt says the funding formula is not perfect.

"The only unfortunate part in all of this is that they use census numbers, not our visitor numbers, which is where we get hurt because we have to build and maintain an infrastructure for 50,000 and we only get assistance…for 10,000," said Barratt.

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