Balancing the books: Small businesses appeal to Halifax council for fair property tax policies amidst $60 million shortfall
Halifax, December 12, 2023 – As the Halifax Regional Council shifts their focus to addressing its $60 million shortfall, small businesses are bracing for the implication this measure will undoubtedly have on their property tax bills. Even at the current rate, over two-thirds (67%) of small businesses do not believe the property tax rate they pay is fair, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
"The cost of doing business in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) continues to rise. An increase of any size, particularly at the magnitude first proposed by city staff, will bring higher costs in the form of higher tax bills for those small businesses who own their property and higher occupancy costs for those who rent," said Duncan Robertson, Senior Policy Analyst at CFIB.
As Halifax council works to find a way to pay for their $60 million shortfall, small businesses are calling on council to ensure that their property tax rates are not hiked to pay for this shortfall and that their rates are not used to subsidize lower residential tax rates.
“An increase to property taxes will disproportionately impact commercial properties, which already pay between 112%-129% more in property tax than residents, depending on their business's location and assessed value. Small businesses are not asking for handouts - they only ask that the HRM council does not add to the sky-high cost of doing business and consider that the average commercial rate is double what is paid for by residents,” Robertson added.
Small businesses are also asking for a clearer budget process.
"The annual song and dance between staff and council makes it difficult for small businesses to plan ahead. Business owners are already consumed with navigating the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) repayment plans, labour shortages, and other tax increases. Having staff propose such a steep increase, while the council assures Haligonians it will come to an unidentified lower increase by March, muddies the water and adds unnecessary stress at the worst possible time. Council must find a better way forward,” said Robertson.
CFIB urges the HRM municipal council to strongly consider the realities facing small businesses during budget deliberations and move forward in a fair and balanced way. CFIB data shows 66 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community. Having an environment that is not mindful of local small businesses not only has negative impacts on small businesses but also on the community around them.
“Small businesses need predictability and sustainability when it comes to their property tax rates as well as government spending in general. Shortfalls in the tens of millions must not be seen as the norm,” Robertson concluded.
For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Duncan Robertson, Senior Policy Analyst
The data referenced in this news release was gathered through the Your Voice 2023 CFIB online, controlled-access survey – Final Results, Active dates: July 6-25, 2023. Results based on responses from 2,786 CFIB members who are owners of Canadian independent businesses, from all sectors and regions of the country. For comparison purposes, a probability samples with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-1.9%, 19 times out of 20.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region, including 4,000 in Nova Scotia. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.