Ski resort volunteers who receive a free spousal or family ski pass are now required to claim the value of the pass as a taxable benefit when filing their income tax.
The local volunteer ski patrol leader is calling the move “counter-productive”—a sentiment shared by many ski patrol volunteers in Sun Peaks.
“We as volunteers are not being paid for it,” said Don Ferguson, patrol leader with the Canadian Ski Patrol System (CSPS) in Sun Peaks. “It takes up a fair bit of our time to do this. For the government to suddenly tax the little benefit that we do get out of it is pretty counter-productive to us and me being able to attract key people (to volunteer).
“It’s pricey for us as it is to do this and all of a sudden to tack that on, there’ll be people who won’t do it anymore. They’ll quit.”
“I think it’s ill thought out,” said Susan Elder, a ski patroller who’s been volunteering at the resort for 13 years. “We not only have to do all the trainings but we also have to pay for the registration. We pay $170 a year to volunteer.”
“Yes, it’s a wonderful thing what (Sun Peaks Resort) does for us, providing the family passes,” said Elder. “However, for us to be now taxed for it by a different agency, it’s a slap in the face.”
Ferguson received a letter from Sun Peaks Resort Corporation (SPRC) advising them that if they had received a spousal or a family ski pass for their volunteer efforts, they’d have to declare it in their income tax. He forwarded this letter to ski patrollers in his team that volunteer at Sun Peaks.
“SPRC just didn’t want us to be blindsided by it. We’re not blaming them; it’s not their fault,” said Elder.
Volunteer ski patrollers commit at least 14 days each season to the resort. There are about 40 volunteer ski patrollers at Sun Peaks. After two years, volunteers become eligible for a spousal pass and after three years, they can get a family pass. The personal pass used for the job is not taxed.
In addition to the cost of training, ski patrollers also have to pay for gas to drive to the resort, yearly re-certifications and initial First Aid and ski equipment to volunteer.
“If they’re going to tax us on this benefit, they probably should be giving us write-offs on ski equipment that we wear out by doing this job too,” said Ferguson.
Norm Daburger, general manager of Harper Mountain, said volunteers at Harper are in the same boat.
“I believe this is the first time it’s been brought to their attention,” he said.
Elder has also heard of it previously by word of mouth. “This happened down in the Okanagan for the ski patrollers down in Apex about two years ago and then it’s just sort of been spreading.”