Battleford's tax discounts decrease

Battleford tax discounts came up again in council, and they’ll be lower in 2019.

In 2018, the Town offered the following tax discounts: eight per cent in Janury, seven in February, six in March, four in April, and two in May.

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According to John Enns-Wind’s administrative report  to council Monday, approximately 39 per cent of taxpayers made payments within January to May in 2018.

Enns-Wind calculated the tax discounts cost the Town approximately $90,000.

Enns-Wind didn’t recommend totally discontinuing tax discounts, but “reduce its complexity and thus net cost.”

His recommendation was January be the only month for the discount, and to reduce the discount to 5.4 per cent, “the average of the discounts currently offered over five months.”

Enns-Wind’s report also proposed introducing a tax installment payment plan, called “TIPPs.” Based on the water installment payment plan, “the main benefits of TIPPs is to allow ratepayers to pay a projected payment per month via direct debit from the ratepayer’s bank account, which avoids the need for a large single payment in the spring of each year,” according to Enns-Wind’s report. Neither in-year penalties nor discounts apply to ratepayers on the TIPPs program.

Enns-Wind said some pay their taxes in small increments when the Town offers discounts.

Calculating individual cases takes up the time of town employees, which Enns-Wind estimates to add “weeks of extra work each year.”

Most councillors disagreed with Enns-Wind’s proposal to limit tax discounts to January. Susan McLean Tady disagreed with the current arrangement.

“We are unique, but I don’t feel we should be giving people eight per cent or seven per cent on their money when we could be spending that money on our employees, or in any number of ways,” McLean Tady said. “That kind of return isn’t realistic in my mind and we aren’t a financial institution.”

Arguments in favour of the discounts include the discounts making Battleford distinct from other municipalities that don’t offer them, and encouraging residents to pay taxes early.

Councillor Judy Pruden argued tax discounts are “not a case of wealthy taking advantage. It’s a case of people who can manage their money wisely.”

Pruden added, “I have numerous people say to me ‘If that discount is gone, you won’t be getting any of my money until Aug. 31.’”

After discussion, councillors decided against Enns-Wind’s initial recommendation to limit tax discounts to 5.4 per cent in January.

Council voted in favour of lowering the 2019 tax discounts to seven per cent in January, six in February, five in March and three in April. May discounts are no longer offered. Council will decide 2020 tax discounts next year.

Council also voted that taxpayers will be eligible for discounts if they pay their taxes in full once, rather than in various increments throughout the tax discount period.

A final result of council’s Monday decisions regarding taxes is the TIPPs program applies to property tax.

None of these discounts apply to the education portion of property taxes.

In 2016, tax discounts were 10 per cent from January to March, eight per cent in April, six per cent in May and five per cent in June.

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