Frequently Asked Questions - Property Taxes

Answers

  1. How do Courtenay’s taxes compare to other similar communities?

    Courtenay’s property taxes are within the range of other comparable local governments. The following graph from 2018 shows how Courtenay compares to other communities in the region. Please note that due to Courtenay’s population size, some external costs and services are mandated by other levels of government at a higher rate than other smaller communities in the region.  For example, Courtenay’s RCMP policing contract charges our community 90 percent of the cost to provide the service, while other smaller communities pay 70 percent or less for the same service.  Courtenay’s water distribution system is also required by the province to operate at a higher level of service than systems operated by smaller jurisdictions. (Courtenay operates a Class 4 Water Distribution System, the highest level possible.)

    Taxes & Charges on a Representative Home - 2018 Comparative
    (Information from Government of BC - Local Government Statistics)

     

  2. Are there programs that provide assistance with taxes?

    The Province of B.C.’s Property Tax Deferment program is designed to assist qualifying homeowners in British Columbia with paying annual property taxes on their principal residence through low-interest loans. Programs are available for ages 55 and over, surviving spouse of any age, or persons with disabilities, as well as families with children. Learn more

  3. Where does the City’s revenue come from?

    About half of the City’s total operating revenues are collected though taxation. Other sources include fees and charges, federal and provincial government grants, and transfers from reserves and surplus.

  4. Where do my taxes go?

    The overall city budget is developed based on the cost of delivering services to residents. Taxes collected by the City of Courtenay support fire and police services, road maintenance, parks, administration, recreation, and cultural facilities. Of the property taxes collected by the City of Courtenay, just over half remains with the city. The rest is collected on behalf of other taxing authorities, such as the Comox Valley Regional District, schools, hospital, BC Assessment, Vancouver Island Regional Library, and Municipal Finance Authority.  The city does not control these charges.

    Utilities, such as water, sewer, and solid waste services, are generally self-funding; costs for the service are directly related to the cost of providing the service to those that use the service.

  5. How does my property assessment affect my taxes?

    It’s important to note that a property assessment increase doesn’t necessarily result in a significant increase to property taxes. What matters is how an individual property assessment changed in comparison to the average change in property assessments in the municipality.

    In 2019, the average Courtenay single-family home increased in value by 17 percent. A property owner with a larger than average property assessment increase could see an increase to their city property taxes, while someone with a lower than average assessment increase could potentially experience a property tax decrease, depending on the tax rate.

    Learn more: Understanding Property Assessments and Your Taxes

    image source: BC Assessment

     

     

  6. When is the property tax due date?

    Property taxes are due by 4:30 p.m. on the first working day after July 1st. Due dates are clearly printed on the property tax notice and shared via the City of Courtenay’s website, social media channels, and newspaper ads.  The supplementary tax notice insert advises taxpayers to claim Home Owner Grants online and make online payments prior to the due date to avoid a penalty.

  7. Why should online property tax payments be made prior to the due date?

    Most financial institutions don’t process payments after 3 p.m., and bank payment processing times may vary. If a payment is made after a financial institution’s local cut-off time on the due date, these payments will be processed with a payment date on the next business day. 

  8. How are the penalties applied?

    After 4:30 p.m. on the tax due date, a penalty is imposed on all outstanding current tax balances. Penalties are also applied to any balance owing due to an unclaimed Home Owner Grant. The penalty rate is established in the Municipal Tax Regulation and is currently 10 percent.

  9. Why is an unclaimed Home Owner Grant amount subject to penalties?

    Property taxes can be reduced by claiming the home owner grant if eligible. The home owner grant is a form of payment, therefore until the grant is claimed it is considered outstanding taxes and is subject to penalty.

  10. Is a property subject to penalty even if the owner did not receive a tax notice?

    Yes. It is the responsibility of the property owner to pay property taxes by the due date to avoid penalty, regardless of whether a notice was received.

  11. Are penalties discretionary?

    No. Penalties are mandated by Provincial legislation and are not discretionary.

  12. What is the legislation regarding penalties?

    The Community Charter Section 426 - Municipal Tax Regulation:

    Penalty for unpaid taxes

    3   If all or part of the property taxes referred to in section 234 (1) [taxes collected under general tax collection scheme] of the Community Charter for a parcel of land and its improvements on the assessment roll remain unpaid after July 2 of the year those taxes are levied,

    (a) the collector must add to the unpaid property taxes for the parcel and improvements for the current year a penalty equal to 10% of the portion that remains unpaid

  13. What is the purpose of taxation penalties?

    If taxes are not collected in a timely manner, the City may have to fund operations by short-term borrowing or by forgoing interest on any cash balances it holds. This impacts all taxpayers including those who paid their taxes on time. The enforcement of a late payment penalty for taxes not paid by the July deadline ensures that any costs associated with interim financing can be offset by revenue from penalties collected from only those payers that did not pay on time.

  14. Can council grant relief for penalties?

    There is no provision to appeal the penalty, however municipal councils may wish to grant relief under extraordinary circumstances such as city hall strikes or other events that disrupt normal municipal operation, such as natural disasters. This can only be done through a tax write-off.

    Council may by resolution request a Minister’s order to write off taxes.  Penalties on municipal property taxes are only written off when avoiding the penalty is impossible and the write-off can be fairly applied to all in the same situation. Circumstances that would not be adequate for a tax write-off would include sickness, travel, bank or user error, or mail strike. In each of these cases, another person or method could have been used to ensure that property taxes were paid on time.

    (Adapted from the Province of British Columbia website, Local Government Finance)