No more free passes for mountain families
The tax man cometh …
By Chris Woodall
Spouses and children of Whistler/Blackcomb employees will not get their ski passes entirely free this year.
Revenue Canada will be making a visit, instead, deducting tax from the worth of the passes because they are considered to be a taxable employee benefit.
The deductions will come off employee pay cheques in early December, says David Perry, Whistler/Blackcomb vice-president marketing and sales.
"That's the law. We're complying with the legal requirements of Revenue Canada," Perry says.
Employees of other ski corporations across Canada face the same situation.
Employees won't have to worry, however, about Revenue Canada upping the ante to take off accumulated tax for passes received in previous years.
The ski giant has been talking to Revenue Canada about this for some time, proposing that if the federal tax man insists on collecting tax past due, that Whistler/Blackcomb's parent company Intrawest will cover the amount owed.
"Employees should not be concerned about prior years," Perry says.
The potential amount that Intrawest might end up writing a cheque for can not be determined because the employee demographic of Whistler/Blackcomb changes year to year.
Discussions are not final, Perry warns. Revenue Canada could decide not to play ball.
Volunteer and paid employee ski passes were also under Revenue Canada's scrutiny at one time, with the tax collector saying they should be taxed unless they were essential for work, as in the case of ski patrollers, but not — according to Revenue Canada — in the case for food servers or retail help.
"After a lot of discussion with Revenue Canada and our own legal department, our position is that all volunteers and employees require the ski pass to do their job," Perry says.
"It's like an employee in an office building needing a pass to ride the elevator," Perry adds. "You don't suddenly force them to take the stairs."
The tax that will be deducted for spouse and children amounts to $112 for each adult, $57 for youth and $38 for children.
"We've tried to tell our employees what's going on," Perry says of the complicated tax rules. "At no point have we been saying they would have to pay for the pass, but that there's a possibility there may be a tax on it."
Paying the tax still means quite a bargain for a dual mountain pass that can cost more than $1,000. But an employee with a spouse and children, some of whom may be adults, too, could add up to a sizeable bite from the pay envelope.
"Revenue Canada is taking an aggressive position on all non-money benefits," Perry says. "Unfortunately, the passes have been caught up in that. Whistler/Blackcomb has been very active to minimize the effect of