Pubs and restaurants in B.C. are among the businesses looking for ways to cover the province’s new employer health tax. (Responsible Service B.C.)

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

One B.C. restaurant owner is being applauded for his transparency for covering part of the employer health tax with an up-front charge on customer bills, but the idea isn’t catching on yet.

As B.C. small businesses deal with the cost of the new tax on the portion of their payroll exceeding $500,000, they have to look at strategies to cover another cost, along with rising minimum wage, property tax and supplier increases.

In the restaurant business, with part-time staff and narrow profit margins, the choices came down to four, says Rob Chyzowski, owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in downtown Victoria. With the new health tax costing him an estimated $40,000 a year, he could lay off staff, increase the price of food and beer, reduce serving sizes or add a new charge to the bill.

Chyzowski opted for the latter, a one-per-cent charge on customer bills labelled “BCH” to represent the additional cost. He says most customers have accepted it.

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, says he hasn’t heard of any other restaurant or pub going the same route.

RELATED: Employer health tax wins ‘paperweight award’ for red tape

RELATED: Full weight of B.C. employer health tax to be felt in 2020

“There is a concern about the cost of the health tax, no question about it,” Tostenson said Friday. “But there has been nobody else who’s come out and said, ‘I’m doing this.’ So I think the industry is probably looking at, will it work, and maybe if it works, they should do the same thing.”

Another Vancouver Island restaurant owner, Calen McNeil, is looking at his options as his Big Wheel Burgers chain has grown to four restaurants. He pays above minimum wage and health benefits to keep employees in a tight market for skilled workers, but he says the new payroll tax is pushing him below the break-even point.

“In effect I have to borrow the money to pay the tax,” McNeil told radio station CKNW this week.

His latest burger restaurant opened in Nanaimo, but for further expansion, he’s looking outside B.C.

The employer health tax must be paid quarterly by most larger companies, at a rate of 2.925 per cent on payroll amounts between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Above that, the tax is charged at 1.95 per cent, applying to “all remuneration” including benefits paid to employees.

The B.C. government has an employer health tax calculator so business owners can estimate their payroll and meet the quarterly deadlines to pay it. That system earned the B.C. government a “paperweight award” from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business this week for imposing complicated regulations on business.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Ecosocialists nominate candidate for Stikine

Edward Quinlan is the new party’s regional director for Skeena and Bulkley Valley regions

Skeena Voices | Former fighter goes toe to toe with Parkinson’s

Valerie Zilinski runs Strong and Steady Fitness classes for people living with Parkinson’s

OPINION: Facebook has taken one step too far

Social network threatens to ban news in Australia, same could happen here

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Most Read