SERVICE N.S./MUNICIPAL RELATIONS–Legislation to EliminateBusiness Occupancy Tax Introduced A bill to eliminate the business occupancy tax was introducedtoday, May 5, on behalf of Nova Scotia’s 55 municipalities. Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Barry Barnetsaid the tax is inefficient for municipalities and businesses andcreates the perception of double property taxation in NovaScotia. “As we market Nova Scotia as a good place to do business, this isa perception we can do without,” the minister said. “This day has been a long time coming,” said Mayor CharlesCrosby, president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. “Out of this legislation will come a commercial property taxsystem that is simpler for municipalities and businesses. The 55municipalities in Nova Scotia stand squarely behind this bill andwe look forward to it becoming law.” Business occupancy tax is paid on the assessed value of acommercial property. Depending on the type of business, the taxis the commercial tax rate multiplied by either 25, 50 or 75 percent of the individual business’s commercial assessment. In the 25 per cent category are businesses such as campgrounds,restaurants, automobile dealerships and hotels. About 11 per centof businesses fall into this category. The 75 per cent category includes businesses such as insurancecompanies, banks and other financial institutions. Thesebusinesses comprise about three per cent of Nova Scotiabusinesses. All other Nova Scotia businesses — about 85 per cent — are inthe 50 per cent category. Among the many issues raised in the consultations that took placebefore this legislation was the impact of going to rate-times-assessment on seasonal, tourism-related businesses. Currently,these businesses pay the business occupancy tax only during themonths they are open. To offset this impact, seasonal businesses will be taxed bymunicipalities at 75 per cent of the commercial tax rate. Thismeasure becomes effective April 1, 2006. The business occupancy tax will also be eliminated immediatelyfor other businesses in the 25 per cent category, such as year-round tourism accommodations, restaurants and automobile dealers. Businesses in the 50 per cent category, which includes most NovaScotia businesses, will see the business occupancy tax phased outover five years. Banks and other businesses in the 75 per cent category willcontinue to pay business occupancy tax for seven years until itis eliminated in year eight. The legislation introduced today also addresses a situationunique to owners of commercial rental space. Under the currentsystem, the owner of the building pays property tax, but thecommercial tenant pays the business occupancy tax. Under the new rate-times-assessment system, the owner of the property would seea significant increase in annual municipal taxes. While manycommercial leases have tax increase clauses, others do not. Forthose that do not, the legislation allows building owners torecover this additional tax from their tenant, who is no longerpaying the business occupancy tax. Incorporated villages and rural fire districts also are in aunique situation. They currently charge a single rate for bothresidential and commercial properties, and this rate is alsoapplied to the business occupancy assessment. In order for themto recover revenues that would be lost by eliminating thebusiness occupancy tax, and to ensure residential properties arenot impacted, villages and rural fire districts will be allowedto charge a commercial rate that is not to exceed 1.5 times theresidential rate. Charities and non-profits are currently exempt from paying thebusiness occupancy tax. To offset the increased commercial tax,the Municipal Government Act allows municipalities to provideeither tax relief or a grant to affected organizations. If passed, the legislation calls for the phase-out of thebusiness occupancy tax to begin April 1, 2006.
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