The quote “Hell is the absence of reason” is generally attributed to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who might find a warm welcome in the Village of Alix in 2022 if the municipality’s recent experience with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is any indication.
At their regular council meeting Aug. 3 council heard a report from village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White describing her odyssey regarding a huge unpaid federal tax bill on a local property which incidentally also owes the village unpaid taxes.
“This has been a bit of an exercise in patience,” said White.
“Council and administration were made aware of a CRA writ registered on title shortly after the property had entered into the village’s tax recovery process,” stated White in her memo to council.
The property in question is located at 4905 – 47 St.; lot 15a, block 1, plan 6146RS.
“Despite the writ it was decided by resolution of council to take possession of the property when it did not sell at public auction. It was determined to be in the best interest of the neighbourhood for the village to take steps to discharge the writ and sell the property,” stated White.
Easier said than done, apparently, as White reported she was stymied or checkmated at every turn.
“The phone number listed on the writ ‘cannot be connected as dialed,’” stated her memo. “Over the past six weeks I have made many calls and have been directed to many different departments and am still no further ahead.
“I was told to call the individual tax line, public services real and the Department of Finance,” stated the CAO. “I was able to leave a message with the Department of Finance. They called me back to tell me I had to email my questions. After sending the email they replied telling me to reach out to (Alberta Finance) Minister (Jason) Nixon’s office.
“I understand my concerns were forwarded from Nixon’s office to Municipal Affairs. A municipal advisor tried her best to help me but the CRA number she found did not prove to be helpful.
White explained the village is attempting to recover unpaid property taxes owed to the municipality but the CRA debt is many times the local one.
“Because of the dollar amount of the CRA lien on the property (about $87,000) and the value of the property, if the CRA lien remains in place the village will not be able to collect any outstanding taxes or fees related to the property. That amount is currently $10,192.44. We are doing our best not to incur any further costs to dispose of the property since it is unlikely that they will be recovered.”
During discussion White said she was at a loss what to do next, noting no response was ever received from Nixon’s office. The CAO added that attempting to contact CRA personally appeared to be a losing battle.
“There seems to be a constant referral back to their online services,’”said White.
The CAO admitted selling the property with the lien likely won’t be easy.
Coun. Ed Cole stated federal law trumps municipal law so Alix is likely behind the eight ball. Coun. Barb Gilliat suggested calling Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins for help.
Mayor Rob Fehr added calling Calkins couldn’t hurt, while it seemed the provincial government wasn’t interested in helping. “The folks in Edmonton, asleep at the wheel,” said Fehr.
Coun. Tim Besuijen asked if CRA can seize the property. White responded the village would be willing to hand it over, especially if it means the property will eventually get back to generating taxes, but she’s never heard of CRA taking a property it has a lien on.
In fact, White stated her investigation revealed this situation is rather uncommon.
Cole suggested talking to someone in the big cities, perhaps Edmonton or Red Deer, for advice.
Councillors accepted the report as information and agreed the CAO should contact MP Calkins’ office to see what help is available.
Local Journalism initiative reporter