By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
A Stettler landlord made an innocent but costly mistake with their income tax.
The landlord presented to council as a delegation during their Dec. 15th meeting, asking for forgiveness on around $400 worth of tax penalties after she inadvertently paid her taxes on Oct. 31st instead of Oct.30th – the final banking day of the month.
Due to ongoing fallout from the pandemic, homeowners in Stettler were granted an extension to pay their 2020 tax bill from the end of June to Oct. 30th.
Tax bills paid after that were hit by a 12 per cent penalty, something the landowner didn’t think was fair.
“It was an error. It was not deliberate,” said the landowner.
“If I didn’t have the money on the Friday, I would not have had it on the Saturday. In the years prior, I’ve put it in the mail with no penalty.”
Further complicating the issue is the fact that Dryden paid her tax bill via online banking, which added an extra couple of days of processing.
“Councils of the day, we constantly have tax penalties every year,” said Town of Stettler Chief Administrative Officer Greg Switenky.
“Council has never, in my 17 years, forgiven a tax penalty. The problem is, we have to pick a date and stand by the date. Policy-wise, that’s always been council’s position…this was an anomaly year, with a late penalty at 12 per cent.”
Typically, when the tax is due at the end of June, a late penalty fee of three per cent is added after the due date, with another nine being added on at the end of July.
With the deferred payments in 2020, council has chosen to impose both penalties at the same time.
“If we forgive one, we should forgive all 171 (outstanding tax arrears),” said Mayor Sean Nolls.
“The deadline was the 30th, not the 31st.”
Not all councillors agreed with Nolls.
“I’ve always said, penalties are penalties,” said Coun. Malcom Fischer.
“But this year is different. There are variables out there on the dozens. That wouldn’t be typical of my attitude in other years.”
Councillor Scott Pfeiffer agreed.
“I just wonder, if it’s a special year and if we should show some compassion,” said Pfeiffer.
One of the arguments made by Dryden is that she was unaware of the extension until she called into the Town looking for the roll numbers for all her properties, as she is actually a resident of Stettler County.
This is something that Town administration found hard to believe, because the extension date was included on tax forms sent to all landowners in Stettler, and as well, the Town mounted an aggressive news and social media information campaign to get word out on when taxes were expected.
“I think we have to stay the dates. The only fair thing to do is to do the full 170 of them. If we start that, it’s a slippery slope,” said Coun. Cheryl Barros.
“That’s a lot of interest we are walking away from (if we forgive this). Why?”
After discussion, Coun. Barros motioned to uphold the tax penalties. The vote was carried, but ended up being split, with councillors Fischer and Pfeiffer voting against it.