A public policy think-tank in Halifax is taking another shot at promoting a proposed municipal income tax system to take the place of property taxation.
The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a discussion paper Wednesday that said “income taxes should replace property taxes as the principal source of local revenue.”
In the report, policy researcher Juanita Spencer argues income taxes “are simpler to administer, involve less local enforcement effort, are convenient for the taxpayer and, provided they are simple and predictable, income taxes are more equitable than property taxes.”
The provincial government would have to amend legislation to allow for such a proposed change.
Spencer in her paper recommended any transition to municipal income tax from property taxation not happen in isolation.
“The introduction of a municipal income tax should be accompanied by the reduction and eventual elimination of transfers from other levels of government,” the report said.
In 2008, the institute commissioned a report by a retired Trent University professor — a municipal government expert — that argued Halifax Regional Municipality should be able to use an income tax system rather than rely on taxes hooked to property assessments.
That paper was released during a review Halifax city hall was doing of its tax system. In 2010, regional council voted to shelve tax reform after years of municipal reports and discussion.
A new mayor and council was elected last month.
Charles Cirtwill, the institute’s president and chief executive officer, said the notion of municipal income tax is not new.
He said the think-tank’s report was released after two other organizations addressed the same issue publicly.
“We’ve actually had it in draft form for about six to eight weeks,” Cirtwill said.
The institute wanted to “put some space” between other released reports and the one from his office, he said.
Asked about property tax in the Halifax region, Cirtwill said the system “is broken.”
The structure is antiquated and unfair, he said.
“When the (Victorian-era) property tax was created … in the mid- to late-1800s, the value of the property you owned really did reflect your capacity to pay the bill. That’s just not the case anymore.”
In August, the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released an alternative municipal budget that suggested civic income tax may be the way of the future.
“For example, a small income tax surcharge of four per cent raises an additional $50 million in revenue,” the centre said in a news release three months ago.