Whistler proposes new tax class for strata-hotels 

Tax uncertainty impacts resort business, municipal revenue said Nelson

A long unresolved tax dispute in Whistler could be fixed if the provincial government creates a new tax class altogether for all short-term commercial accommodation.

That’s one of the solutions put forth by representatives from the Resort Municipality of Whistler to the provincial government.

The new tax class would gather all tourist accommodation properties together and, by doing so, remove the longstanding dispute between which tourist accommodation properties pay Class 1 (residential tax) and Class 6 (commercial tax).

"I think from a municipal perspective we’d like to put all accommodation into it (the new class) that is short term commercial accommodation," explained John Nelson, general manager of corporate services for the RMOW.

"We’ve really been chasing this issue and having extensive discussions with the provincial government since about 1999. Each year they look at it and say ‘yes, that’s a serious problem, we’ve got to do something about it’ but each year there are pressure groups on both sides and in the end nothing gets done."

The tax dispute revolves around strata-titled hotels; those hotels where the units have individual owners.

Some strata hotels are taxed as a business property, others as a residential property. Though seemingly innocuous tax categories, the tax rate on commercial properties is 3.6 times higher than on residential properties. The different classifications can mean hundreds of dollars – thousands of dollars over a few years – difference to the property owners.

As so, even though two hotels sitting side by side in Whistler can operate and act in exactly the same way, they can be taxed at substantially different tax rates.

The proposal on the table would change all that.

"It really seems to be, in our simple minds here in Whistler, an effective solution to the problem," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"…We would probably move to a middle ground… so there would be some people who would probably appropriately pay more, who have paid just residential class, and those who have paid commercial will reduce down and see some savings…"

It’s a solution that may be met by resistance from some, according to Pat Kelly, president of the Whistler Real Estate Company.

"A lot of people that have put their faith in Whistler are pretty upset about this continual, what they perceive to be, an unfair tax grab," said Kelly.

"At the end of the day, who’s the guy that’s ending up paying it? …It’s the taxpayers and they don’t like having what they consider to be unnecessarily high levels of taxation on a unit that they own. It isn’t being run as a commercial hotel (but)… they may do some rental out of it."

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