Non-profits say employer health tax would be 'very significant hit'

By Chad Klassen
March 12, 2018 - 6:11pm Updated: March 12, 2018 - 8:46pm

KAMLOOPS — The impending employer health tax coming in 2019 is not being well received by some in Kamloops, including non-profit organizations that say it could mean the different between providing a service or not. 

It's an issue that's already been debated in the B.C. Legislature. Last Tuesday, Fraser-Nicola Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart making an impassioned speech to the NDP government on the impact of the impending employer health tax on ASK Wellness.  

"Non-profit organizations like ASK Wellness are especially sensitive to sudden increases in their already lean budget," said Tegart. "An extra $97,000 in taxes will force ASK Welless to cut services and programming."

ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes puts that dollar figure closer to $80,000, but nonetheless it's going to be negatively impacted. 

"We've done some calculations what it would cost at the present state and it is a very significant hit for the organization that frankly we, as a non-profit, would not be able to withstand," said Hughes.

Between the Merritt and Kamloops operations, ASK Wellness employs about 130 people and pays out $3.8 million in salary, equating to the $80,000 employer health tax. 

Hughes would like the government to reconsider and give a break to the organizations that help follow through on their health and social well-being mandate. 

"It does beg the question to say 'does it make sense to tax an organization that is doing community service in the interest of the province and the federal government and municipalities?' So I think cooler heads will prevail and there will be a solution," noted Hughes.

The Thompson-Nicola-Cariboo United Way feels the same, even though it's not affected at point, only employing eight people at $475,000 under the $500,000 tax threshold. Being exempt from the tax will save the United Way $5,000 to $6,000 a year. 

"All our employees will see MSP coverage free. We did pay that for them, so we will see those savings and we'll be able to put more dollars out into the community," said United Way TNC executive director Danalee Baker. 

But Baker recognizes the non-profit may need to hire more help to serve the community, and in that case United Way would also be paying the employer health tax. 

"We already have high turnover and burnout rates with non-profits. This is going to be a deterent to adding more resources that could really benefit the community. It's a shame," said Baker. 

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