Vancouver too expensive, not over-taxed

It must be easy to write right-wing anti-tax screeds when you don’t have to actually research any facts.

Take for example, this new piece in the Vancouver Sun which blames the local tax system for “scaring off potential businesses.”

Author Roslyn Kunin notes that 46 new businesses were licenses in the City of Vancouver between 1999 to 2012 when the population grew by 80,000. Never mind that no context (or source) is given for this number, we are merely supposed to be shocked that this number amounts to a mere 4 per year. In a quick search, I couldn’t find any comparables*, which makes the number meaningless. Perhaps this is high, perhaps it is low, I don’t know.

The author then makes the leap that it is local corporate taxes keeping businesses away from the city, even noting that “both business and residential properties are taxed, but residents vote.” A fact that is true now but for a long time businesses were guaranteed a vote under the peculiar BC Corporate Vote scheme.

No actual proof is offered linking Vancouver’s corporate tax rate to the number of licenses issued or that lower tax rates would actually increase the number of Vancouver start-ups (many argue that the city is actually low-taxed and great for start ups). I could easily make the argument that Vancouver’s high real estate prices and low office vacancy rates equally turn away new businesses. From one real estate analyst:

Downtown Vancouver’s office market typically has one of the lowest vacancy rates of any metropolitan core in Canada. … Lease rates in Downtown Vancouver are among the highest in Canada and are anticipated to experience upward pressure until new office towers come on stream in 2015.

Retail space in Downtown Vancouver remains in demand but a lack of supply is impeding further investment in the market.

An overall lack of supply restrains deal and dollar volumes and contributes to the highest valued industrial real estate in North America.

But go ahead Kunin, keep spouting your anti-tax apologetics and pursuing that race to the bottom.

*I was able to access Open Data sources for business licenses in Vancouver and Calgary, but it wasn’t clear when these were first issued. Vancouver, for example, lists each license which must be renewed annually. There are some 60,000 licenses in that list. Calgary has just over 30,000 licenses listed over a wide range of dates.