Municipal governments will have to cover the costs of the B.C. government’s health care payroll tax, because they can raise property taxes to do it, Finance Minister Carole James says.
The tax is being phased in starting January 2019, as Medical Services Plan premiums are phased out with a 50 per cent reduction taking place at the same time. For municipalities that already pay MSP premiums on behalf of their employees, extra costs for 2019 will have to be covered.
“They aren’t going to get any relief,” James said Monday when asked about municipalities who are looking at raising property taxes.
“We’re still in discussions with charities, not-for-profits, school boards and universities, the groups that don’t have the ability to be able to bring in revenue.”
The Union of B.C. Municipalities surveyed members as they prepared their 2018-19 budgets and they reported their costs are expected to double between 2017 and 2020 as a result of the payroll tax. The City of Victoria is considering a two per cent increase to cover the extra costs.
The “employers health tax” takes effect in 2019 at 1.95 per cent of payroll for businesses and organizations with payrolls of more than $1.5 million. A lower rate applies for payrolls between $500,000 and $1.5 million, and those below $500,000 are exempt.
The payroll tax applies whether employers pay their employees’ MSP premiums or not. James emphasized that while property taxes may go up, individuals stand to save $800 a year or more if they have been paying their own MSP premiums.