The Surrey Board of Trade is getting complaints from local businesses about high property tax increases this year.
“In terms of complaints, I would say a combination of phone and email messages, around 40,” Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, said.
But Coun. Laurie Guerra said that hasn’t been her experience.
“I haven’t had one complaint this year about any increase in taxes and after speaking with some of my other colleagues found they haven’t either,” Guerra told the Now-Leader.
Huberman said of Industry Class businesses, Class 5 (light industry) and Class 6 (average businesses) are seeing tax increases as high as 14.5 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively over last year.
“This is unsustainable after they experienced an average increase between 2020 and 2021 of 53.9 per cent for Class 5 and 39.3 per cent for Class 6,” Huberman said. “This is on top of cash flow challenges of the pandemic, supply shortages, natural disasters, inflation, interest rate increases, and workforce challenges. We need a tax climate that is conducive to the success and sustainability of businesses. Over the years, all levels of governments have put significant tax burdens on business, including regulatory burdens that inhibit business growth.”
There are several contributing factors to the increases, she noted – city taxes, regional taxes for TransLink, sewer, etcetera and school taxes, for example. This year, land value assessments “increased significantly” across the board, Huberman added.
Coun. Brenda Locke says she’s received “a lot” of complaints about tax increases and “it’s really been challenging for businesses. We have to get a handle on this. It’s medium, small and large businesses that are faced with it. Same thing last year.”
“The pressures on business and on homeowners, the taxpayers, is pretty incredible,” Locke said. “If I have one thing that keeps me awake at night, it’s how are we going to be able to do all that we need to do in the city with an inflation rate that’s going to go up through the roof?”
Mayor Doug McCallum declined to comment.
Meantime, Guerra noted the provincial government “cut quite significantly” the school tax rate for businesses in 2020 as part of its COVID-19 re-start plan, “thus when comparing 2021 to 2020, there will be a significant relative increase as 2020 had ‘supressed’ tax rates due to the province’s reduction of the school tax for that year.”
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