Canada's churches 'face closure' as tax bills suddenly shoot up

Fears are growing places of worship may no longer be able to afford to host community groups, such as food banks

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Wednesday 17 May 2017 22:07
Churches have started being taxed in Canada

Churches in Canada are being forced to pay council tax despite places of worship being exempt from paying fees.

By law, churches in Montreal do not have to pay municipal taxes. However a little known loophole means many churches are now being faced with escalating costs.

Fears are growing that churches that often host community groups and food banks will no longer be able to do so faced with mounting fees.

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church in Montreal, received a municipal tax bill in early 2015.

He said officials subsequently arrived to inspect every room in the church and to determine what they were being used for.

"The indication is there's not an exemption for the church as a whole, there's only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it," he told CTV News.

Taxes can also increase dramatically if a church closes its doors. When Trinity Memorial Church closed, Montreal’s council started billing from its last service, forcing the church to sell quickly to a property developer.

"Already our churches are in danger, they're having a number of financial problems and this is a further low blow," Montreal Councillor Peter McQueen told CTV.

"If we don't do something you're going to see churches closed, churches possibly torn down, heaven forbid, certainly converted away from community use.”

The Independent has contacted representatives from the city of Montreal for comment.

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