Tax penalties pose conundrum

District: Council debates merits of waiving fees due to flooding.

District council has chosen to hold off on deciding whether or not to support the waiving of penalties on outstanding property taxes.

At their Aug. 22 meeting, council received a list 11 residences whose owners had yet to pay the 10 per cent penalty on outstanding property taxes, which were due July 3. Total penalties owed amounts to $4,800.

Corporate services manager Ruth Walper explained that several of the requests were from Two Mile property owners, while a couple were from Silver Sands. She said a couple of letters were received explaining why they were late, while most just summed it up in writing on their tardy tax submission, “due to flooding.”

“In one case they stayed away,” said Walper. “They knew there was a disaster… due to information that was coming out they stayed at home instead. And then there was some that actually had damages so they needed their funds for other purposes I imagine.”

In a memo to council, Walper explains it is up to the province to decide to forgive property tax penalties, and that she had spoken with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural development and was told that, despite the disaster, applicants “still need to go through the regular process of requesting forgiveness of taxes through the ministry.”

Asked if all 11 have since paid their taxes, Walper said not all had. Her memo also states that Vinco Holdings Ltd., operators of Waterway Houseboats in Two Mile, “has not paid their taxes which include a penalty of $8,321.37.” Waterway was the hardest hit by the flooding, which seriously damaged their property.

Coun. Fred Busch commented  that he understood why those impacted by the June 23 debris flow in Two Mile, and subsequent flooding around Sicamous would have had problems paying, but not all residences among the 11 suffered those conditions.

“I don’t know if we can differentiate here, but I can’t support people who were not affected by any of the floods or anything like that…,” said Busch.

“I’m not sure if we can say you’re okay and you’re not. I just think we can’t accept these. That’s the rule and that’s the way it is.”

Other councillors were more forgiving, including Coun. Greg Kyllo who initially suggested council support the waiving of penalties.

“I certainly would be in full support of just letting this go through this year and take our typical hard stance on taxation in future years,” said Kyllo.

Busch, however, remained unswayed, noting that payment could have been submitted by mail or credit card.

Walper said she expects there will be more requests to waive penalties when notices go out for outstanding taxes in October.

“Perhaps at that time we could mention that council will consider requesting the province to write off penalties on taxes for property owners that were affected by the flooding in June,” states Walper in the memo.

Council agreed to this, deferring the matter to November.