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Red Deer County resident must pay late-payment tax penalty

County councillors did not want to set precedent by letting taxpayer off the hook

A Red Deer County resident who misplaced their tax notice and was hit with a $243 late-payment charge will have to pay up.

County council turned down a request to cancel the late-payment fee on Tuesday. While councillors expressed sympathy with the property owner’s plight, letting them off the hook they feared setting a precedent that could come back to haunt the county.

Under county policy, a penalty of six per cent is levied on late taxes, which are due on June 30. In this case, the property owner misplaced their tax notice and paid 10 days late but still owes the late-payment charge.

As of Aug. 28, $8.5 million is owing on 1,710 county properties, including 346 pipeline properties owing $5.6 million.

In a bid to reduce the amount oil and gas companies owe the county, concessions have been made in some cases to freeze late-payment charges while a payment plan is worked out.

Coun. Lonny Kennett questioned whether it was fair oil companies owing thousands got a tax break when a ratepayer owing a small amount did not.

“This was a one-time accident and he’s asking for a little bit of leniency from the county,” said Kennett.

“The (Municipal Government Act) allows us to do this exact thing.

Coun. Philip Massier said the two situations are not equivalent. While the county has the power to seize property and auction it off if taxes are paid the municipality cannot do that with oil and gas properties.

“I don’t want to compare apples to oranges.”

Mayor Jim Wood said council would “turn the whole process upside down” if it approved the cancellation request.

“We have to follow the rules we set in place and show that we’re going to be fair.”

Cancelling the penalty could lead to a “deluge” of similar requests in the future, he said.

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