Northern Sunrise joins lobby

Millions of dollars in unpaid taxes a big problem for council

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies is a growing concern among many municipalities in Alberta.

Big Lakes County and the M.D. of Smoky River have expressed concerns loud and clear over decreased revenue in the millions of dollars, and now Northern Sunrise County has officially joined the lobby.

In a news release issued by the NSC May 17, Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba says council is “speaking up” to support the Rural Municipalities of Alberta [RMA] in highlighting the concerns and implications of unpaid oil and gas property taxes.

A recent RMA survey indicates that rural municipalities face an overall unpaid oil and gas property tax burden of $245.7 million, with still-operating oil and gas companies responsible for 57 per cent of the unpaid taxes.

In some cases, the unpaid taxes are being passed onto local taxpayers, or councils have made decisions to cut some services and/or programs in budgets.

“Many of our ratepayers are experiencing financial difficulties from the economic downturn and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Kolebaba.

“We do not support shifting the unpaid oil and gas taxes to Northern Sunrise County property owners because some oil and gas companies are choosing not to fulfill their property tax commitments.”

Unpaid oil and gas company taxes is a very profound issue for NSC. How much is staggering. Kolebaba says there are $4,759,556 total unpaid oil and gas company taxes in arrears, including written-off taxes. The total includes $2,019,000 unpaid taxes owed by still-operating oil and gas companies and $2,740,556 in unpaid taxes owed by bankrupt/insolvent oil and gas companies.

Part of the problem is loopholes created by government the RMA and councils want addressed.

“Though the RMA and its members have continually advocated the Government of Alberta to address the legislative and policy loopholes that allow oil and gas companies to forego paying property taxes, no action has been taken by the Province to address this ongoing and growing issue,” says Kolebaba.

As such, NSC is committed to bringing awareness to the issue and supporting the RMA with its efforts.

Unpaid taxes impact ratepayers and municipalities in many ways. Municipalities across the province rely on property taxes to fund the services and infrastructure that the oil and gas industry utilizes daily.

NSC manages 108 km of paved roads, 1,050 km of gravel roads, and 97 bridges.

“Municipalities may have no choice but to recover every dollar not paid in property taxes by the oil and gas industry from other property taxpayers in the form of substantially increased tax rates or reduced service levels,” says Kolebaba.

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