Local Government Fees & Charges

Local governments may impose fees and charges for the provision of services, use of property, exercise of regulatory authority, or for obtaining copies of local government records.

Fees and charges are established by bylaw and are primarily used for recovering:

  • The cost of services such as, sewer, water, transit and garbage
  • The use of government property such as, park fee or facility rental fee
  • Exercising regulatory authority such as, building permit fee or a business license
  • Obtaining government records.

There are certain services for which a local government may not impose a fee or charge. For example, a local government may not impose a highway toll unless specifically provided by a provincial or federal enactment.

Broad Authority

Local governments have broad authority when establishing a fee structure, including:

  • Basing a fee on any factor specified in the fee bylaw,
  • Establishing different fee rates in relation to different factors,
  • Establishing terms and conditions for fee payment for example, discounts, interest and penalties, and
  • In certain cases, applying a fee outside the boundaries of the local government

A fee amount must not be excessive. Instead, the amount of a fee should be sufficient to recover costs of a service and ensure its future sustainability. Fees are generally applied on a user-pay basis,so only those who benefit from the service bear the fee.

To ensure transparency, local governments must make available to the public, on request, a report showing how a fee was determined.

Recovery of Certain Fees Through Taxation

When a local government imposes fees for works or services provided to land or improvements, such as sewer, water or garbage fees, and the fees go unpaid, they form a lien on the land and its improvements. These fees may then be collected in the same manner and with the same remedies as unpaid property taxes. Namely, if the fee is due and unpaid by December 31 in the year it was levied, the fee is deemed to be taxes in arrears.

Interest on Fees & Charges

In some cases, fees and charges are restricted by legislation. One such charge is interest. The rate and method of interest calculation for money owing to a local government is typically set by the B.C. government through legislation or regulation. Provincially set interest calculations include:

A local government can only establish the method for calculating interest if the B.C. government has not done so.