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Richmond church denied tax exemption for unrenovated commercial units

Churches in Richmond receive about $484,000 in tax breaks.
Richmond Emmanuel Church owns three units inside President Plaza, but they aren’t currently being used as a place of worship.

A Richmond church has been denied a tax exemption for three commercial units they own in a strip mall since they have yet to renovate the space into a worship area.

Richmond Emmanual Church has bought three commercial units at President Plaza on Cambie Road, but because no renovations have been done – nor has the city received a building permit application for renovations – their request for a tax exemption was denied by the City of Richmond.

A site visit was done by BC Assessment and city staff in August 2022, and it was determined “the design, condition and configuration of the units were not conducive to being used as a public place of worship,” according to a staff report going to city council’s finance committee next week.

In its report, city staff note a building permit application was expected in April 2023 but none has yet been submitted.

A tax break can be given if a property is being actively used as a place of worship, but not during construction.

Taxes for the three properties at President Plaza in 2023 were assessed at about $27,000.

The city gives about $1.4 million in tax breaks to various charities, largely churches and child-care centres.

Of this, churches receive about $484,000 in tax exemptions, non-city owned properties received about $132,000 in tax breaks, while city-owned or leased properties account for about $847,000 in tax breaks.

“The City recovers this shortfall through tax increases to general taxpayers,” city staff note in their report to the finance committee.

Tax exemptions are allowed for non-profits and charities that don’t conduct commercial ventures. Last week, volunteers from the Army, Navy Air Force (ANAF) 284 in Steveston approached city council to ask for a tax break or tax deferral as they are $50,000 in arrears.

The city lawyer, however, noted, because ANAF 284 runs a commercial business on the property, provincial legislation doesn’t allow them to get a tax exemption.