Vancouver posts Canada’s lowest commercial property tax rate

City has the highest residential taxes in the country, but has slashed rates on commercial real estate for five consecutive years

Altus Group 2020 Canadian Property Tax Rate Benchmark Report.

The City of Vancouver now has the lowest tax rate for commercial property among major Canadian cities, but Vancouver has shifted the burden to residential real estate, creating the most heavily-taxed homeowners in the country.

With a decrease of 27.9% from 2010, Vancouver posted the largest drop in commercial rates out of 11 cities surveyed by the Altus Group for its 2020 Canadian Property Tax Rate Benchmark Report, released October 26. The 17th annual survey was done in conjunction with the Real Property Association of Canada.

The tax shift is measured by a commercial-to-residential ratio that compares the commercial tax rate to the residential tax rate. For example, if the ratio is 2.50, a commercial property valued at $1 million dollars would incur property taxes 2.5 times higher than an equally-valued residential property.

Because of the pandemic, many cities have shifted the tax burden away from businesses, which resulted in a decrease of the commercial-to-residential tax ratios in 2020.

But Vancouver was particularly aggressive.

Vancouver’s commercial-to-residential tax ratio dropped 36.84% in 2020 from a year earlier to a historic low of 2.3. This was the largest decline of all cities surveyed, Altus found. This decrease took Vancouver from the third highest ratio in 2019 to the fourth lowest in 2020.

In comparison, the average national commercial-to-residential tax ratio in Canada is now 2.65, down 6.6% from 2019.

“[This] marks the fifteenth year in a row that Vancouver’s commercial rates have gone down. Over the last five years, Vancouver’s commercial tax per $1,000 of assessment has dropped 55.3%, going from $15.05 in 2015 to $6.73 in 2020,” Altus reported.

The city cannot take full credit for the dramatic cut in commercial taxes. The drop was driven in large part by a B.C. government decision in April to reduce the school tax portion of the commercial tax mill rate (tax per $1,000 of value)  by 70% this year as part of its COVID-19 Action Plan.

The tax shift has dinged owners of homes, which remain the highest priced in the country.

Vancouver posted the largest increase in residential tax rates in Canada this year, with a 14.2% increase from 2019, the Altus report reveals. This moved the city’s mill rate on a median residential unit to approximately 2.92 this year, from approximately 2.56 in 2019. This increase adds $131 more in property taxes for a median priced home of $1.2 million, according to the City of Vancouver.