Taxation issues, financial tools discussed at UBCM
Its been one year since Mayor Hugh OReilly brought together representatives from six resort communities in B.C. and asked them to form an association with Whistler.
In a spirit of co-operation this group, which included Tofino, Fernie, Golden, Rossland, Invermere, Penticton and Whistler, formed the B.C. Resort Communities Association.
After only a year in the works, Mayor OReilly said he is pleased with the positive working relationship within the association.
"Were trying to do a number of things," said OReilly after the associations latest meeting at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver last week.
"We want to share information, mentor, pass on best practices between ourselves.
"Were trying to speak with a unified voice in the sense that were all communities that share commonalties."
A hot topic at the last meeting was the idea of creating a new tax classification for tourist accommodation.
Currently there is a debate among some property owners about whether their strata-titled condo-hotel properties falls into a Class 1 residential assessment or a Class 6 commercial assessment. The difference in tax rates is significant.
In the past property owners have been able to jump classes and as such get taxed at a different rate.
OReilly used the Westin as an example. At one point the Westin was taxed at a Class 6 rate but for one year it was taxed under a Class 1 rate because the parking spaces and commercial spaces were considered individual strata units.
"I think youd have a hard time telling anybody thats a residence," said OReilly.
"Thats our problem... weve had people jumping between classes."
To help get rid of this confusion, the association proposes to use the Class 3 assessment for certain tourist accommodation properties.
"The class is not being utilized so its really just renaming it and giving communities some discretion on how it would work best in their community," said OReilly.
He said it would be up to the communities on whether they would want Class 3 assessments taxed at a residential rate or a commercial rate. Another option is that they could blend the rates for Class 3.
"Our issue is that each community should be able to make that choice by putting (tourist accommodation properties) in a class, define them as a group thats unique and different from residential or other commercial," said OReilly.
"Then you can set the tax mil rate at a rate which you feel is appropriate in your community and so theres latitude on where that may go."