Taxpayers may have to pick up difference for office buildings

Toronto’s biggest office towers could be in line for millions of dollars in property tax reductions — leaving the city’s other taxpayers to pick up the difference — after a decision by an assessment panel.



The stunning decision by the Assessment Review Board also means the towers may be owed millions in refunds dating back to 2001, an unexpected expense that lands on the city just as it is trying to pull this year’s budget into shape.



While the board’s decision doesn’t calculate the amount of refunds and tax reductions owed, the amounts in play are staggering:

  • The successful appeal was launched by the owners of 12 towers in Toronto’s biggest office complexes: TD Centre, BCE Place, Commerce Court, First Canadian Place, Scotia Plaza and Royal Bank Plaza.

  • The combined assessed value of the properties, according to the decision, is more than $5 billion.

No lawyers or other officials were willing to speculate on the decision’s precise dollar impact.

"The obvious impact for the bank towers, if the decision is upheld on appeal, is their tax burden will go down, and the tenants will pay less — materially less," said David Fleet, a lawyer who represented several of the towers.

In most office leases, tenants are responsible for paying property taxes. The towers’ tenants include Canada’s biggest banks, some of its biggest corporations, including BCE, and many of the biggest law and accounting firms.

paying taxes

  • Businesses in Toronto have complained for years they’re paying too much tax while homeowners pay too little — a point reiterated last week by Mayor David Miller’s fiscal review panel.