The governments decision to lower the provincial sales tax by half a per cent effectively reversing a 2002 decision that raised the rate from seven per cent to seven-and-a-half per cent was applauded by businesses across the province last week, including Whistler retailers.
According to Finance Minister Gary Collins, who announced the lower taxes on Wednesday, Oct. 20, the government had planned to roll back the provincial sales tax rate once the economy was on stable footing.
"Our plan to balance the budget and revitalize the economy is working and I am extremely pleased that we are now able to reduce the provincial sales tax," he said. "Since we made the difficult decision two and a half years ago to increase the rate to cover additional compensation for health care professionals, British Columbians have consistently and overwhelmingly told us that reducing the sales tax should be a top priority when the changes we were making began to pay dividends."
The half per cent tax reduction, which was effective on Oct. 21, will reduce provincial tax revenues by approximately $270-280 million a year.
For Retail B.C., an organization that represents more than 3,500 retailers in the province, the decision to lower taxes was a good start. Mark Startup, the president and CEO of the group, said the "B.C. Government has given British Columbians the gift that keeps on giving. Todays sales tax cut will return $280 million into the hands of B.C. families this year and every year after."
Retail B.C. is calling on the government to further reduce the Social Service Tax in the next few years, aiming for a goal of "6 in /06", or six per cent by 2006, with further reductions every six months.
Retail B.C. believes that lower taxes will result in increased sales for its members. The organization also hopes it will reduce the number of British Columbians on border towns who are shopping for goods and services in Alberta, which does not currently have a provincial sales tax.
Reducing provincial taxes to six cents on the dollar will make B.C. retail taxes the lowest in the country, with the exception of Alberta and the Territories.
Stephen Henderson, the owner of Great Games and Toys in Whistler Marketplace and a Retail B.C. director, says the lower tax rate will make a difference for Whistler businesses.
"I think its going to definitely help," said Henderson, who says retail sales are down across Whistler. "Im always surprised how many people notice the tax rate, and are sensitive to the rate. People do calculate the taxes in their heads, Ive seen it many times in the store, and often thats a factor in whether they choose to purchase something.