In a media release on Tuesday, November 10, the Ontario government announced that they are giving municipalities the flexibility to provide property tax relief to small businesses. The province is also considering matching these reductions which would provide small businesses with municipal and provincial property relief totaling $385 million. This initiative is part of the 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover.
“Small businesses are the backbone of Ontario’s economy, but many have been suffering through the pandemic and struggling to stay on their feet,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Our municipal partners came to us with an idea to provide more support for small businesses through property tax relief, and in our fall budget, we delivered. Our government is also helping small business owners by eliminating unfair taxes on jobs and lowering the Business Education Tax.”
Local MPPs, Bill Walker and Lisa Thompson, welcome the plan and call it an investment in economic recovery for the region.
“Property taxes are one of the most unavoidable costs businesses face in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties. They must be paid, even when business is slow, as it has been for so many months this year,” said Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker.
According to the media release, there is a wide range of Business Education Tax rates across the province, despite promises made by governments over the last 25 years to fix this inequity. This creates an unfair challenge for businesses operating in communities where rates are higher.
“As we continue to address the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, our government remains committed to doing whatever it takes to support people and help businesses recover during this time,” said Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson.
The 2020 Budget also proposes to reduce property taxes on job creators and level the playing field by lowering high Business Education Tax (BET) rates for over 200,000 employers, or 94% of all business properties in Ontario, starting January 1. This would create $450 million in immediate annual savings and represents a reduction of 30% for many businesses currently subject to the highest BET rate in the province.
“Time and time again, we have heard that unfair property tax rates in some parts of the province are creating barriers to job creation and growth,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “We heard loud and clear that levelling the playing field and addressing unfair property tax rates is one of the most important things we can do to immediately support employers now and in the future."
Rates will be reduced to 0.88%. In Grey County, it means industrial properties will save $282,000, in Bruce County, they will save $160,000 and in Huron County, they will save $86,000. Commercial properties will save $2,788,000 in Grey County, $407,000 in Bruce County and $485,000 in Huron County.
The government is also proposing to end a tax on jobs for an additional 30,000 employers. Back in March, the government more than doubled the Employer Health Tax exemption to $1 million. Employers across Ontario have indicated that this measure helped them keep workers on the job during COVID-19.
The Ontario government is also helping main street businesses stay open and stay safe by offering a grant of up to $1,000 for the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE), with applications for the $60-million Main Street Relief Grant becoming available online on November 16, 2020. Small businesses with two to nine employees in the retail, accommodations and food services, repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services sectors, can apply for this one-time grant. Eligible businesses, whether applying for the Main Street Relief Grant for PPE or for property tax or energy rebates in affected regions, will be able to do it all through one application on a new online portal. For more information, visit ontario.ca/smallbusiness.
“Ontario’s landmark Budget — the first delivered during a global pandemic — in part focuses on what matters most to small businesses and will help establish a solid foundation on which they can reliably recover and rebuild,” said Associate Minister or Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria. “Partnering with municipalities to bring tax relief to our small businesses will strengthen our recovery and help our job creators weather this storm.”
Ontario's Action Plan sets out a total of $45 billion in support over three years to make available the necessary health resources to continue protecting people, deliver critical programs and tax measures to support individuals, families and job creators impacted by the virus, and lay the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.
Ontario has also committed $300 million to provide eligible small businesses in modified Stage 2 public health restrictions, or, going forward, in areas categorized as Control or Lockdown to cover costs associated with property taxes and energy bills.
The province is also moving forward with introducing legislation to extend the temporary ban on commercial evictions for businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance, as part of Bill 229, the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020. If passed, the legislation would extend the ban on evictions for commercial tenants that would have been eligible for the CECRA for small businesses program.
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