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Separate the good from the bad in tax conversations

To the Editor,

I agree that the “property tax system needs an overhaul” (Interior News, Guest View, Andre Carrel, April 4, 2024) but until we separate the community-created wealth of nature, (nature wasn’t created by humans) from human-created wealth (i.e., houses), the “band-aid” approach to solving social problems will continue.

The property tax is really two distinct taxes. The tax on the building is about 70 per cent of total property tax. As Carrel says we don’t tax goods like “bread and potatoes.” We tend to use taxes for bads like smokes, booze and pollution. So why are houses on the bad list?

Population demands for limited nature create site value. However, sites and other features of nature are often undervalued and certainly undertaxed (see above) and this encourages speculation, urban sprawl, waste of energy and inflation of monopolized sites.

A recent example is the electric heavy truck company that, for efficiency, wanted to locate in Merritt, B.C., but because the offshore site owner wanted more future unearned site dollars (speculation), the industry decided to locate in Terrace.

Will Terrace, if legislation permits, capture the increased site value the industry will create or will it go into private pockets? Will Terrace have to raise taxes on existing houses and other buildings to expand infrastructure and services or will needed revenue come from increased site value?

Certain groups are calling for a BC Fair Tax Commission. Hopefully, it would include discussion of a revenue-neutral tax shift from needed houses to community-created site values. The current site value tax could just be raised and taxes on buildings lowered in a revenue-neutral adjustment.

Sharing nature needs to be part of the property tax overhaul.

John Fisher


Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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