Tax equity, fairness fundamental to small-business survival

Many important issues were discussed and highlighted during this year’s municipal election in Vancouver, the most urgent being housing, affordability and homelessness.

The city is facing serious challenges that will require an all-hands-on-deck approach and a spirit of collaboration.

The Vancouver BIA Partnership, which is made up of the 22 business improvement associations (BIAs) in the city of Vancouver, had the opportunity to meet with many prospective candidates during the campaign to discuss important issues facing our business community, which mirror those of city citizens at large.

Now that the election is behind us, we can focus on the tasks at hand, which, in addition to the issues that dominated the debates and meetings, include the affordability crisis affecting our small-business community.

Tax equity and fairness is absolutely critical to the sustainability and growth of our small businesses. Not only do small businesses represent 98% of all businesses in British Columbia, but also they are significant employers and contributors to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our communities, including Vancouver, where the situation has reached a crisis level.

The increasing pace of unsustainable change and levels of taxation, which often exceed rents, is putting small businesses out of business, and changing the landscape and unique character of our neighbourhoods.

The current system of property valuation based on the industry standard of highest and best use is a significant contributing factor to the untenable tax burden faced by our businesses. This jeopardizes the community-sustaining jobs our members provide that make Vancouver a wonderful place to live, work and play.

The time for studies is over.

Vancouver’s small-business community needs the city to promote fair tax policies that will tax what’s physically there, not the air.

We need to make the necessary changes at the municipal and provincial levels to ensure the continued viability and success of our small-business members and employers.

Vancouver’s BIAs represent more than 20,000 businesses and 7,195 commercial properties, adding up to more than $39 billion in taxable property value. Our mandate as non-profit societies is simple: we work on behalf of our members to improve and promote our respective business districts and the economic development of our communities.

As we have over the past 30 years, Vancouver’s BIAs look forward to working with Mayor Kennedy Stewart and staff on matters pertaining to the safety, security, livability and health of our neighbourhoods, including our small-business community. •

Claudia Laroye and Sharon Townsend are co-chairs of the Fair Tax Coalition and members of the Vancouver BIA Partnership, which is made up of the 22 business improvement associations in the city of Vancouver.