Province offers property tax break to Nova Scotia hotel and inn operators

·2 min read
Province offers property tax break to Nova Scotia hotel and inn operators
Province offers property tax break to Nova Scotia hotel and inn operators

Nova Scotia tourist accommodation operators who meet eligibility requirements will get a break on their 2020-2021 property taxes through a rebate program announced Thursday.

Hotels, inns and motels that have paid their 2020-2021 commercial tax bill in full and have more than five rooms will be eligible for a 25 per cent one-time rebate, according to a release from the province.

Airbnb operators who have more than five rooms and have paid their commercial tax bill will be eligible too.

The provincial government set aside $4.6 million for the program, Business Minister Geoff MacLellan told reporters on Thursday.

MacLellan said while the tax rebate program alone will not be a "magic policy wand that fixes everything," it was the best option for financial relief based on ongoing conversations with stakeholders in the hospitality industry.

Inns of Nova Scotia president Erika Banting said her membership has been asking for relief since May and welcomed the announcement.

"It was good news that we received this today, that they actually heard us," she said.

Banting said some innkeepers are reporting revenue drops of up to 70 per cent relative to last year, but she expects most members of her association will survive.

"It's just going to be a very difficult year," she said.

The group has also asked for HST relief, but Banting said there's been no word on that.

Accommodation operators must also prove they have a revenue loss of 30 per cent for the period April 1 to Oct. 31 compared to the previous year.

Michael Tavares of the MacInnon-Cann Inn in Yarmouth said business has been down 85 per cent this year at his establishment.

With few bookings and skyrocketing insurance rates, many small operators have not been able to pay their property taxes in full, he said.

"I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense in that if people are struggling to pay their bills, a lot of them are getting on payment plans for tax bills," he said.

But MacLellan said offering a rebate after property taxes have been paid to municipalities would be easier and have less "red tape" than working with municipalities to cut taxes.

New businesses offering accommodations must prove they are operating at less than 50 per cent occupancy to be eligible for the rebate.

According to the release, the accommodation sector has seen a 56 per cent reduction in room nights sold compared to the same period last year.

The tourism industry in Nova Scotia as a whole is expected to generate $900 million in 2020, compared to $2.7 billion in 2019.