Penticton eases up on tax exemptions

Penticton churches, schools and hospitals will no longer need to apply for municipal tax exemptions on a yearly basis.

Penticton City Council was unanimous in their desire to have to deal with permissive tax exemptions less often.

Starting this year, places of worship, hospitals and schools will only need to apply for a municipal tax exemption on a three-year cycle, rather than the annual request they now have to make.

“It has been a source of tension year after year, so I am happy we are moving to a situation where we will only have to look at it every three years,” said Coun. Garry Litke.

In 2009, council introduced a new policy to reduce land tax exemptions for non-profit organizations with over $50,000 working capital, but ended up backing away from it after the controversial policy drew public concern. Council also rescinded a similar decision in 2011 after 10 organizations appealed.

Angela Campbell, the city’s revenue supervisor, chose three years as a starting point for the new policy, but said the community charter allows up to a 10-year span.

“Because the city of Penticton sees a lot more changes in the property and the use of the land, three years seemed to be a reasonable start to a cycle, to make sure it wasn’t going to be a large amount of work,” said Campbell. Mayor Dan Ashton, however, jokingly wondered if Campbell might have other motives for a three-year cycle.

“I think she is doing every three years just to break every new council in, just to let them know the pain,” said Ashton.

Campbell explained the new policy does not apply to all nonprofits.

“Any nonprofit can apply for permissive tax exemption. I am only recommending this three-year cycle for places of worship, the schools and the hospital. Those are the ones that tended to be granted an exception, regardless of their financial hardship,” said Campbell. Qualifying institutions won’t need to fill out the extensive application each year, which Campbell said would result in cost savings for both the institution and the city.

“The intent is to save work for the organizations themselves. It is a long application, they do have to get a lot of paperwork to us, their financial statements, their proof that they are in good standing,” said Campbell. “It is a time consuming thing for them, as well as for the city itself. It is a great deal of time on my part to put the information together for council to review.”

Institutions will have to fill out an annual certification there have been no changes to the property or its used that would affect the permits of exemption.