Saanich council to debate ending automatic tax exemptions for places of worship

On Monday, January 23, Saanich council will debate a motion calling on the province to eliminate the statutory exemptions for places of worship.

The motion, "transition all statutory tax exemptions for places of worship to permissive tax exemptions," is being brought by Councillor Teale Phelps Bondaroff and would direct the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to lobby the province for the change.

Presently, every place of worship is exempt from paying local property taxes under the Community Charter. Councils can pass additional permissive tax exemptions to further exempt property held by religious organizations used for purposes other than worship (such as parking lots).

In its 2021 report, A Public Good?, the BCHA estimated that these statutory exemptions cost municipalities almost $46 million in forgone revenue and the permissive exemptions accounted for another $12.5 million. The report also found a number of municipalities required religious organizations to pass a public benefits test prior to receiving a permissive tax exemption.

If the province amended the law as requested by this motion, it would mean that municipal governments could apply such tests to the entire property held by a religious organization, rather than simply any that is not used for worship.

The meeting will be held at 7:00 PM at Saanich Municipal Hall (770 Vernon Avenue). Members of the public can register to participate in the Public Input portion by emailing [email protected] or calling 250-475-5501. Alternatively, you can submit written comments by email to [email protected].

Or use our tool to send a pre-written letter to council:

Banner image: Wikimedia/Michal Klajban

Note: Dr Teale Phelps Bondaroff consults with the BCHA as our research coordinator.

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