Bob Aaron firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Administration fee’ that will now be charged on municipal land transfer tax is $75 — plus HST
Last week the City of Toronto and Teranet, the administrator of the provincial land registration system, announced a new $84.75 tax on registration of every land transfer in the city.
Effective April 1, 2016 (ironically, April Fools’ Day), the City of Toronto will impose what it calls an administration fee of $75 plus HST, or $84.75, to cover the cost of collecting the municipal land transfer tax on the registration of all title transfers.
The fee amounts to a further tax on top of the municipal land transfer tax. But since the fee itself is subject to HST, Ontario property purchasers are being charged a tax on a tax on a tax.
Toronto budget chief Gary Crawford proposed the new fee back in January. It was introduced to the city’s budget committee last January and quietly passed by city council without consultation or notice to real estate industry stakeholders.
The apparent rationale behind the fee is that when a transfer of land is registered the city’s land transfer tax is collected electronically by Teranet.
But when Teranet forwards each tax payment to the city, it deducts a $75 administrative fee for handling the payment.
Not content with the approximately $500 million annual proceeds of the city’s land transfer tax, the city now is going to pass this $75 collection fee through to purchasers of property in Toronto. This will yield the city roughly another $5 million, a not insignificant sum but only 1 per cent of the transfer tax revenue and a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s $10-billion annual operating budget.
But it gets even worse. First-time home buyers who receive a full rebate of the municipal land transfer tax — in other words buyers who are completely exempt from payment of the tax — are still subject to the administrative fee for not collecting the tax. This may make sense to the city’s bureaucrats, but its logic completely escapes me.
From a reading of section 14 of the City of Toronto Municipal Code, it appears that there will be no administrative fee collected on transactions which are otherwise exempt from land transfer tax, such as gifts between spouses.
Starting next month, when lawyers register land transfers for property purchasers, four separate charges will be electronically collected by Teraview (the software developed by Teranet): the registration fee, the provincial and municipal land transfer taxes, and now the Crawford administration fee (plus HST) to collect the tax.
Even the very rare documents that are still paper registrations outside the electronic system are still subject to the administration fee which must be paid in person at the North York Civic Centre.
There seems to be a pervasive view around Toronto city hall that the real estate market is a golden goose which can be tapped at whim for more and more money. Starting with the Miller municipal land transfer tax in 2006, then huge increases in development charges, and now the Crawford tax on a tax on a tax, city politicians must come to realize that Toronto’s real estate market is not a bottomless pit for their financial mismanagement.
If the city needs another $5 million, which it apparently does, the city should raise the necessary funds by a minuscule increase across the entire tax base, and not by targeting one specific sector.
Imagine Canada Revenue Agency charging us a fee to collect our income tax. We would be up in arms.
I was hoping that the election of Mayor John Tory in 2014 would bring sound financial policies to city government. The imposition of this patently unfair and petty “administrative fee” has proved me wrong.