Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Langley City Council drops permissive tax exemption elimination plan

Back in September of this year, Langley City Council asked staff to prepare a permissive tax exemption elimination strategy. Mayor Schaffer and Councillor Storteboom opposed this. At last week’s council meeting, staff presented the permissive tax exemption reduction strategy.

Municipalities in BC are allowed to reduce or eliminate property tax for select properties within their jurisdiction. The City of Langley currently provides $257,537 in property tax exemptions for 29 properties. This works out to about 1% of the $23.6 million in property tax revenue the City collects.

Under provincial law, church buildings and the land directly under them are not permitted to be taxed. The City of Langley also exempts all the other land on church property from tax as well.

The following organizations found themselves at risk of paying property tax to the City:

  • Anglican Parish of St. Andrews
  • Bridge Community Church
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Global School Society
  • Ishtar Transition Housing
  • Langley Association for Community Living
  • Langley Care Society
  • Langley Music School
  • Langley Community Service
  • Langley Evangelical Free Church
  • Langley Hospice Society
  • Langley Lawn Bowling Club
  • Langley Seniors Resource Society
  • Langley Stepping Stones
  • New Apostolic Church Canada
  • Salvation Army – Gateway of Hope
  • Southgate Christian Fellowship
  • St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church
  • United Church of Langley
  • Vineyard Christian Fellowship

That Langley City Council would even consider eliminating these tax exemptions was ill-conceived. Going after churches and select non-profits to gain an additional 1% in property tax revenue doesn't make sense to me.

As you can imagine, the last Langley City Council meeting was packed. Seeing that moving forward with the elimination of these tax exemptions would be political suicide, Council decided to let the current tax exemptions stay in place.

One of the things that I do believe Langley City needs to do develop is an updated permissive tax exemption policy that is equitable to churches, non-profits and taxpayers. The current policy has developed over the years in an ad-hoc fashion. Creating a comprehensive tax exemption policy would ensure that there is transparency around how these exemptions are approved.

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