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Toronto man who didn't fill out vacancy tax form told to pay $17,000

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A Toronto homeowner says the city is asking him to pay over $17,000 for failing to fill out a new vacant home tax form.

“I found out I’m being asked to pay $17,530. Which is almost double what my property taxes are,” said Toronto resident Kenneth Martin.

Toronto residents had until the end of February to fill out the new form, declaring whether or not their home was lived in.

Martin said he was on holiday out of the country when the tax form was sent to his home and he missed the deadline to submit it.

“It's not like I’ve done anything wrong. I didn't commit a crime. I wasn't convicted of anything. I simply didn't fill out a form and now they are going to charge me $17,000," said Martin.

Hansa and Pravin Mehta also live in Toronto and they also didn’t submit the vacancy tax form before the February deadline. Hansa Mehta said that due to a health issue they were staying with their son.

Mehta said they have been told they have to pay a vacancy tax of $9,300.

“It is a lot of money and we can't afford that and the property wasn’t a vacant property at all,” said Hansa Mehta.

The city of Toronto sent out 811,825 vacancy tax forms and received a response rate of 96 per cent, a city spokesperson told CTV News Toronto.

About 4 per cent, around 35,000 residents, did not respond to the notice.

It may be that some homeowners ignored the forms, didn't receive them or thought it was a scam.

The goal of the new vacancy tax is to discourage properties from sitting empty and if they do the tax is one percent of the property's assessed value. For example, on a home assessed at $1,000,000 the tax would be $10,000.

Tom Storey, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Signature Realty Toronto, said the city of Toronto only gave residents about three months to respond to the tax form and some people may have not known exactly what the vacancy tax was all about.

“With this new tax form if you don't declare that means your property was left vacant” said Storey who added “It has to be declared each year and don't forget because if you do they’re going to assume your property is vacant and you'll be hit with the tax and then you will have to go through the process of appealing it."

In a statement to CTV News Alex Burke, Manager of the city of Toronto’s Media Relations said in a statement: “Residential property owners who didn’t submit a declaration of occupancy status by the February 28, 2023 extended deadline – and whose property was not vacant in 2022 – can still declare their property's occupancy status through the complaints process. There will not be a fine for homeowners who confirm occupancy status by completing the complaints process.”

“Property owners or someone acting on their behalf can file a Notice of Complaint through an online portal at www.toronto.ca/VacantHomeTax. They can also submit their complaint by mail. All the details about submitting a Notice of Complaint are also at www.toronto.ca/VacantHomeTax.”

“The complaints process is also available to property owners who receive a Vacant Home Tax Notice of Assessment and believe their property has been incorrectly classified as vacant, or who otherwise disagree with the assessment.”

Martin worries some residents will end up paying the vacancy tax when they shouldn't have to.

“When you figure out that about 30,000 people didn’t fill out the tax form, at about $10,000 that could be as much as $300 million (in vacancy taxes) people like me are going to incur," said Martin.

The city of Toronto does estimate the new vacancy tax will take in about $60 million.  

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