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No forgiveness after extension to pay taxes

At the end of June, council gave the community a reprieve on penalties for paying taxes late, but that forgiveness did not extend to one taxpayer who paid three days late.

At the end of June, council gave the community a reprieve on penalties for paying taxes late, but that forgiveness did not extend to one taxpayer who paid three days late.

Property owner Victor Khuu applied to council to forgive his penalty of $560 because he paid on July 31, when in fact the time frame to forgive penalties ended on July 28.

“Administration must follow the bylaws and provincial laws and regulations that are in place. Administration cannot deviate from that, so if penalties have been applied in accord with bylaws and resolutions made by council, only council can alter that,” said manager of finance Katherine Van Keimpema.

Van Keimpema explained the motion for council at the end of June was to forgive penalties for late payments, it did not technically change the deadline when taxes were due. She said it was to give consideration to taxpayers who had other things on their minds after the flood.

In a letter to council, Khuu indicated he thought the deadline for paying taxes was the end of July, not July 29.

Part of the issue came down to how the exact date of July 29 was communicated to the community. The Outlook reported taxpayers had an extra month to avoid penalties, while the municipality posted it on its website and it was in Mayor John Borrowman’s weekly flood letter published in the Outlook.

“If there is some uncertainty with the date, one could always check with the Town as well,” Van Keimpema added.

She also said 11 other tax rolls paid after July 29 and before July 31 and that Khuu has twice in recent history been late and had penalties assessed against his property. The other 11 properties represented $3,777 in penalties.

“There is a common understanding taxes are due by the end of June and there is a historical process where you get your assessment followed by your tax notice and a large majority of taxpayers pay on time, so we don’t do a lot of education on that,” said Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto. “In this instance, it was really the penalty waived, not the due date for taxes.”

There is also the monthly payment plan for taxes available, added de Soto. Out of the 12,000 tax rolls in Canmore, 4,500 are on the Tax Installment Payment Plan.

The fact the property owner had paid his taxes late in the past tipped the scales for Councillors Sean Krausert, Joanna McCallum and Esmé Comfort and Mayor John Borrowman to vote in favour of upholding the late penalty.

McCallum remarked that taxes are a given in life and there was no evidence the property was in a special circumstance as a result of the flood.

“In my mind, this is clearly a taxpayer that wanted to pay taxes at the last possible moment and didn’t take the time to call the Town to find the correct answer and got caught up in the penalty,” she said.

Councillors Ed Russell, Vi Sandford and Rob Seeley voted against the motion, indicating they felt the taxpayer acted in good faith by paying at the end of the month.

“I have some concerns about how the information was rolled out on this one and I think in this particular case, because of all the misinformation and all the things average people had to keep up on in Canmore as a result of the flood, this individual may have been confused by the information at the time,” Sandford said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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