CRA decision puts squeeze on family-run campgrounds


By Barb McKay

Small, private campground owners received a shock when they opened their tax bills this year. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has removed the small business tax deduction for many, indicating that they are too small to qualify.

According to CRA criteria, to receive the tax deduction businesses must employ more than five people. Family-run campgrounds generally operate seasonally, closing in the winter, and are unable to meet that employment threshold. As well as not qualifying for the tax deduction, the campgrounds are required to pay thousands of dollars in back taxes.

Last month, the Ontario Private Campground Association launched a petition calling on the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to intervene and allow private campgrounds to be taxed the same as other small businesses. The fear is that the amount of additional corporate taxes that campground owners will have to pay will drive some out of business.

“Camping is about celebrating the great outdoors and is an integral part of our nation’s history and our identity as Canadians,” Alexandra Anderson, executive director of the association said in a media release. “Nearly 5.8 million Canadians go camping each year, along with numerous international visitors who want to experience the natural wonder of our country. We don’t want to believe that it is the CRA’s intention to destroy family-run campgrounds, but that’s exactly what will happen if their decisions are not reversed.”

The Ontario Private Campground Association says the CRA is beginning to view the campground industry as specified investment business, which includes businesses with a primary purpose of generating income from property. This would include rental apartment buildings, land lease communities and mobile home parks.

In Kincardine and the immediate surrounding area, there are several family-run campgrounds. Jim Boyer operates Aintree Trailer Park on Concession 12. Its proximity to Lake Huron has made it a popular spot for family camping for more than 50 years. He said that seasonal campgrounds do not match the definition of specified investment businesses.

“I think different campgrounds offer different levels of 'activity', involvement and services to travellers, vacationers and seasonal campers, but I don't see seasonal businesses as peoples’ residences or homes or subdivisions. That's entirely different.

Hopefully by working with CRA, our association can give a clearer understanding to all the aspects of this issue, and we will be able to discuss these changes with CRA to mitigate any adverse effects on campgrounds in Ontario and across Canada.”