Taxpayers evade postal dispute

The City of Kelowna tax collection department says property owners found alternative ways to pay their property taxes in light of the Canada Post lockout.  - Sean Connor/Capital News
The City of Kelowna tax collection department says property owners found alternative ways to pay their property taxes in light of the Canada Post lockout.
— image credit: Sean Connor/Capital News

Kelowna’s tax man is breathing a little easier today.

Following Monday’s deadline for payment of property taxes in the city, Kelowna’s revenue manager, George King, said it appears most property owners in the city got the message about finding alternative ways to pay their taxes rather than sending them through the mail system this year given the recent Canada Post labour dispute.

With mail delivery stopped due to the labour dispute, the city scrambled to not only get word out ahead of the stoppage but also to advertise the many other ways taxes could be paid on time.

They included paying through financial institutions, using the Internet, using drop boxes the city set up at City Hall and direct in-person payments at City Hall.

It warned residents that because post marks are not accepted as proof of payment, cheques in the mail that arrived late would be subject to mandatory penalties.

As it happened, mail deliveries restarted across the country early last week after the federal government introduced back-to-work legislation to end the postal dispute.

“It appears people took advantage of the tools we put in place to help them pay in different ways,” said King. “This year we have not seen near the amount of mail (payments).”

King said information about this year’s tax payments should be ready in about 10 days and will then be sent to council in the form of a report.

But if history holds true, the vast majority of residents here will have paid their taxes on time.

Typically, of the 54,000 tax notices Kelowna sends out each year,  only 3,000 to 5,000 are not paid by the deadline. In the city, that results in an automatic five per cent penalty on any outstanding balance, including the home owner grant if it was not applied for prior to the deadline. This year, another five per cent penalty will be applied to any taxes still owing as of Aug. 3.

King said while the city splits the 10 per cent penalty for late taxes mandated under B.C.’s Community Charter, it does not have the authority to waive it.

Kelowna is one of just a few municipalities in the province that splits the penalty over the first month after the tax deadline, said King.

“That’s another advantage of living here,” he said.

Most municipalities, including West Kelowna, impose the full 10 per cent penalty immediately following the deadline. This year, taxpayers in West Kelowna have three days more than their Kelowna cousins to pay their taxes. There, the deadline is today.

This year, Kelowna will collect a total of $192 million in property taxes, $97 million for itself and $115 million for other jurisdictions such as the local school district, regional district and regional hospital district.

King said Monday’s deadline day, traditionally the busiest day at City Hall for tax payments, went remarkably smooth considering the lines that snaked through the lobby.

“It was a very steady day for us,” he said.

Now his staff have the task of putting all the information from the thousands of payments into the computers, tallying up who paid what and who did not pay, preparing the first round of late notices for those who did not pay on time and keeping track of payments between now and Aug. 3 when the additional late payment notices will have to be sent out.

“We will be kept busy,” said King.



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