Methodology used in Canadian cities tax study not comparable

September 29 2020 –

The City of Vancouver is providing additional context regarding the methodology used in a study which claims that Vancouver has the highest taxes among larger Canadian cities.

A study conducted by Dr. Andrey Pavlov, Simon Fraser University Professor of Finance and Real Estate, uses single family property value benchmarks for cities across Canada, however that comparison does not reflect that Vancouver is a regional city while other major cities in Canada - such as Toronto - are amalgamated/metropolitan cities.

For example, using the benchmark price for a property in Metro Vancouver of $1.4m would be more comparable to the benchmark price used in the study for Toronto. In Vancouver, that property would pay approximately $4,165 in taxes, below both Ottawa and Toronto in the analysis included in the study.

The City of Vancouver regularly benchmarks with other municipalities across Metro Vancouver. In 2019, Vancouver's combined property taxes and utility fees for a median single family home were below the average among Metro Vancouver municipalities.

Municipality 2019 combined municipal property tax and utility fees for median single-family home
West Vancouver $6,023
White Rock $4,422
New Westminster $4,393
Port Moody $4,389
North Vancouver (District) $4,362
Surrey $4,051
Richmond $3,931
Average $3,903
Vancouver $3,852
Coquitlam $3,768
North Vancouver (City) $3,662
Burnaby $3,499
Delta $3,440
Maple Ridge $3,410
Township of Langley $3,377
Pitt Meadows $3,366
Port Coquitlam $3,309
Langley (City) $3,097

It should be noted that comparison between cities is difficult. Some municipalities charge separately for utilities and some are included within the property tax levy. 

Municipalities across Canada provide different services which may be funded by property taxes in one city and other sources in another.

Provinces also have differing models to fund municipalities, including some which transfer funds directly to the municipalities to fund services. Some municipalities such as Toronto have the authority for revenue from sources such as a property transfer tax, which offset reliance on property tax as a funding source. As such, an analysis directly comparing property tax between cities is not complete.