Thursday, March 10, 2016

Stay in The Underground Economy Until Further Notice

If you operate a home based business in Nova Scotia, I have some advice for you.  Until further notice, stay in the underground economy.  Do not get a development permit.  If you can help it, do not hang a sign.
There is a very good chance that your rural municipality does not understand the concept of Land Use.  Your provincial government is also in the dark, so don't look for help there.   Halifax does understand these laws and there are a few other municipalities that seem to understand them, but many do not and are incorrectly applying the Building code to Home Occupations in exclusively residential zones.

But, even if you are in HRM, your home based business, in an exclusively residential zone, will be subjected to commercial property taxes if you apply for a permit.  That's a lot of money.  My property taxes have gone up by $800 and guess what? This is perfectly legal in Nova Scotia.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is not an error.  It is written in the tax legislation.  Commercial property taxes can be applied outside of commercial zones.

This is generally not done in other provinces, but it's done here.  Here's the kicker- Commercial property taxes are applied without rhyme or reason.  If you operate a Bed and Breakfast in a residential zone, you will not be charged commercial property taxes.  If you don't hang a sign or apply for a development permit you will not be charged commercial taxes.  If you are an artist or woodworker or hairdresser or accountant operating a small business from your home and you would like customers to find you, or if you would just like to operate legally, you  will be charged commercial taxes.

Talk to your municipality or PVSC  (the crown corporation responsible for assessing property taxes in NS) and nobody knows what they are talking about.  Nobody wants to take responsibility. Your municipality will tell you that they just do what PVSC tells them to do and PVSC  generally talks out of the wrong orifice.  It is the blind leading the blind.

It's all rather unfortunate because home based business is an incubator for larger business  (Think Steve Jobs) and when businesses purposefully fly under the radar because of fear of burdensome regulations or burdensome taxation, their growth is prevented.  But who cares about the little guy anyways?  They are so easy to pick on.  Most of them are too busy raising families or figuring out how to pay grocery bills to fight an unjust system.  Good job, Nova Scotia. You are going  for the low hanging fruit and thinking small.


  1. And therein lies the problem (that whole low-hanging fruit meme). Nova Scotia - we're all about the scenery. And precious little else. And so continues the slow slide into obscurity, bankruptcy and irrelevancy.

  2. Contest your assessment. The value of your space in the market is exactly the same as what the municipal government charges for the wood working shop. (Hint it is $1/mth!)

  3. Yes, I filed an appeal, but it's being done throughout the province and this needs to be talked about. It does not make sense for the well being of the province.


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