NS: Study reveals property tax system 'most regressive' tax in country

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The study, released by the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce, cites experts in economics and municipal governance in concluding that the system is a barrier to economic growth and is unfair to all property taxpayers.

Business News

[HALIFAX, NS] — The Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce — the umbrella body for all 31 local chambers and their 7,000 business owners in the province — has released a study that casts a shadow on the municipal property tax system.

The study cites experts in economics and municipal governance in concluding that the property tax system is the most regressive form of tax in the country, is a barrier to economic growth, is unfair to all property taxpayers and will create more problems for seniors in the future.

The Chair of the NS Chamber of Commerce, Chris Atwood, said that “This study is a follow-up of our earlier report in February of this year and not only validates that work but reveals some huge gaps in fairness to all municipal taxpayers, especially business property owners”. 

On February 1, the NS Chamber released a report on all commercial tax rates across the province which indicated that the business sector bears a significantly higher burden by an average multiple of 234 per cent more in business taxation for every dollar of the residential sector for an equal amount of assessed property value. 

The NS Chamber partnered with Collins Barrow, a national accounting firm to ensure accuracy and validity of the report. NS Chamber Executive Director Wayne Fiander said that "we wanted to make sure that our data and conclusions were well-founded."

The NS Chamber has four recommendations for all levels of government:

1) Until substantive changes are made, the Province of Nova Scotia should legislate a cap on the multiple between commercial and residential rates, at the rate used in the province of New Brunswick — that being 150 per cent or 1.5 times the residential rate.

2) That the Province of Nova Scotia should eliminate the cap on residential assessment.

3) That each municipal government should, within its borders, charge the same rates for the same service for all consumers.

4) That property assessment as a measure of cost recovery for municipal units be eliminated and that the province of Nova Scotia seriously investigate the use of either the HST system or income tax or a flat tax or some combination of all three as a means to eliminate property taxes over a ten year period in order to meet the characteristics of a good tax. This will also serve to produce savings by not valuing property any longer and lower costs of administration in collecting taxes.

Fiander explained that municipal governments are forced to rely on an out-of-date tax regime. He said that "If provincial and municipal policy makers want to grow the economy, then, a fundamental change in the municipal cost recovery system has to take place and the sooner the better". 

"As a business organization, the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce wants to not only point areas of concern but to offer constructive ideas on how to improve where we work, live, raise a family and grow our business," Atwood said.

Organizations: NS Chamber of Commerce, Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • AJ Lister
    October 23, 2013 - 10:17

    The title of the article attracts attention but in the reading of it, I see you are only advocating property tax relief on commercial use property. That will fix nothing and may actually hasten the death of a number of towns whose onerous property tax rate is partly responsible for empty residential real estate and declining populations. There needs to be serious change to the current property tax system. Property should be taxed on a sliding scale with high assessments paying a larger percentage than lower assessments. Additionally, seniors on low income need to be able to defer property taxes altogether - the current system is tokenism. At least two other provinces allow 100% deferral of property taxes.

  • Mike from Reality
    October 18, 2012 - 07:47

    Long before we need municipal tax reform in NS, we need to look at municipal governance in NS. How about 19 regional governments to reflect the 19 counties that currently exist. Then a coherent discussion could take place on taxation. With approximately 440 municipal seats up for grabs this weekend (Pictou County has 10% of them) clearly there is a more pressing need for the restructuring of our municipal governance.

  • PC real estate holder
    October 18, 2012 - 07:11

    so you are wanting the residential holders who don't make a profit off of their property to pick up the difference in tax rate by the sounds of all this eh? cutting the difference to 1.5 would only mean residential tax rates rising so the municipalities can still get the same money as they are now....as a tax payer i think we already pay too much!

  • johnny smoke
    October 17, 2012 - 14:59

    Oh golly, do you mean that all of those assessors who through out the years decided what you would be paying to have the privilege to live in their domain, were, are, wrong. Never could figure out how the amount of money wrung out of the property owner for equal services could be based on the enormity of his or her abode. Next question what are they going to do with all of the surplus assessors, no that is against the law.

    • Freeman Hall
      October 19, 2012 - 09:48

      Just bloody wonderful with more and more boomers staying in their homes on fixed incomes and facing higher power, food, fuel, medical and other costs. Many pensioners carry more debt now than when they were in the workforce. We have paid our way for over fifty years and then some. Now you want to raise our taxes even more. Why don't you focus on generating solid employment opportunities for the young. The Chamber of Commerce should be more visionary and stop pounding the public every time they "think" there is a crisis.