Property owners now have until Sept. 2 to pay their property taxes without incurring any interest or penalties.
Taxes were originally due July 2, but the change was made April 23 when Community Services Minister John Streicker signed off on a ministerial order under the Civil Emergency Measures Act that was brought in due to COVID-19.
Under the order, Yukon municipalities will extend their 2020 property tax payment deadlines. The change also applies to any Local Improvement Charges property owners are repaying.
A number of other jurisdictions across the country are making the same move with a 60-day extension on property tax deadlines to assist property owners during the pandemic.
Speaking to reporters during a phone-in press conference, Streicker stressed the government recognizes the financial strains COVID-19 has brought to many and it’s hoped this will provide “some breathing room” for those who need it.
While the date extension is aimed at those who have suffered a financial loss due to COVID-19, there will be no requirement to show that loss has occured. At the same time, he emphasized municipalities rely on property taxes to keep operating essential services and he encouraged those who can to pay their property taxes by the original July 2 date.
The issue of some sort of property tax relief in light of COVID-19 impacts has come up repeatedly at Whitehorse city council meetings recently, though it was stressed property tax payments and deadlines fall under the territory’s tax act and therefore any changes were subject to the Yukon government. City officials have been saying discussions were underway with the territory when questioned by council about any changes.
The territory worked with its business advisory committee, CAOs and managers in Yukon communities as well as the Association of Yukon Communities in coming up with the two month extension, Streicker said.
Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis also emphasized the city’s recognition of the financial hardships being faced by property owners and businesses and echoed Streicker in noting his hope this provides “breathing room” for those who need it.
“It’s been a very difficult and challenging year,” he said.
The extension “is not without consequences,” Curtis said, adding that municipalities rely on its tax base to continue the services it provides. Transit, he said as an example, is still seeing about 6,000 people in a given week and in light of COVID-19 there is no charge for the service right now.
The mayor also recognized the date extension on property taxes will not be a cure all to the financial strains many are facing, but may provide some help.
“I’m happy this will help just a little bit,” Curtis said.
It’s anticipated the city will get enough tax payments at the July 2 deadline that its operations will not be impacted, though Streicker said community services will be working with staff at municipalities throughout the territory if there are any such issues.
He also said this is one of a number of programs aimed at helping Yukoners facing financial hardships at this time.
While some municipalities may have already issued property tax notices, it is the new deadline of Sept. 2 that will apply to tax payment due dates.
Along with the property tax extension, providing free transit and parking, Whitehorse city council also recently approved eliminating interest and penalties on late utility bills until Sept. 30 in light of COVID-19.
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