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REAL PROPERTY TAX - Exemptions - Charitable institutions

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 @ 9:17 AM  

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Appeal by the City of Winnipeg and the City Assessor from prerogative relief granted in favour of the respondent, ImagineAbility Inc. The respondent was a charitable organization that provided services to disabled individuals. From 2010 onward, the respondent operated from a leased premise for which it bore responsibility for all associated property taxes. In 2017, the respondent became aware of its entitlement to an exemption from school taxes. Accordingly, the respondent requested reclassification of its property from fully taxable to school tax exempt and requested a refund of school taxes paid in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the respondent received the exemption. However, the Assessor refused any refund based on a retroactive exemption. The respondent sought judicial review of the Assessor’s decision with orders for mandamus compelling the Assessor to report the change in use and the tax collector to change the tax rolls and issue refunds for 2016 and 2017. The reviewing judge granted the relief sought. The City and its Assessor appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The discretion to determine the effective date of a tax exemption involved an interpretation of s. 340 of the City of Winnipeg Charter. The validity of that interpretation was a matter squarely within the parameters of judicial review. The reviewing judge erred in law by failing to apply a reasonableness standard of review to the Assessor’s decision. The record showed that the Assessor’s general practice was to not exercise his discretion to retroactively amend tax rolls in respect of prior years to grant a refund. The interpretation of s. 340 of the Charter to find no obligation to reach back in time to trigger a refund for a year where the tax rolls had not been changed was not unreasonable.

ImagineAbility Inc. v. Winnipeg (City) Assessor, [2020] M.J. No. 85, Manitoba Court of Appeal, M.A. Monnin, J.A. Pfuetzner and J. leMaistre JJ.A., March 27, 2020. Digest No. TLD-May182020001