Late last year, a number of Toronto Community Housing Corporation residents began receiving letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regarding the “tax-exempt” status of buildings in which they lived and their tax returns.
By ALAN Shackleton
The Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) says it will work to help a number of its tenants who have been affected by a recent federal tax ruling that could cause them to lose provincial benefits.
Late last year, a number of TCHC residents began receiving letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) telling them they owed a large amount of back taxes related to to the payments they had received under the Ontario Trillium Benefit. They were also told that they would no longer be eligible for part of this benefit.
The reason given was that they had not indicated on their tax returns that the TCHC buildings in which they lived had been exempted by the City of Toronto from municipal property and school taxes.
The tenants say they had never been informed by the TCHC that their building (and there were 383 according to the TCHC) had benefited from such tax-exempt status.
The decision to grant status to the TCHC building was made by the city in 2011 and then all but forgotten until tenants receiving the Ontario Trillium Benefit began receiving letters from the CRA.
George (who wanted his last name used) is a tenant in a TCHC seniors’ building in south-west Scarborough, and he updated Beach Metro Community News on the situation regarding ARC and Trillium benefits .
He said residents were afraid of losing their benefits, which they need to survive, for a mistake they had no idea they had made.
“During this period (from 2011) they didn’t tell tenants they couldn’t use their rent receipts for tax purposes,” TCHC’s George said.
“In good faith, the tenants used the rent receipts.”
Tenants who live in TCHC buildings that have tax-exempt status have now been made aware of this fact, but only after the CRA started sending out the letters and scared tenants started asking what was happening, George said.
“It affected thousands of adults and children,” he said.
Robin Smith, head of media relations and issues management with TCHC, said the CRA letters are deeply concerning given their impact on low-income and fixed-income tenants.
Smith said this is an issue currently facing community housing providers across the province.
Toronto’s decision in 2011 to grant tax-exempt status to many buildings had the “unintended consequence” of making many TCHC tenants ineligible for the Ontario Trillium Benefit which began the following year. , Smith said. Although the tenants apparently do not know.
“A decade has passed since these two events, so it is difficult to say for sure what communication TCHC has provided to tenants, as much of our communication is done by mail, creating posters and conversations led by the front-line staff,” Smith said.
“In hindsight, however, we can see that tenants would have benefited from more information about the interaction between the new Ontario Trillium Benefit and TCHC property tax status.
TCHC is working with other community housing providers, including Ottawa Community Housing and CityHousing Hamilton, to advocate for impacted tenants.
“We are partnering with the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONHPA) to advocate with the federal and provincial governments, asking for relief for renters,” Smith said.
“Together with ONHPA and our colleagues in Ottawa and Hamilton, we have written directly to the Minister of National Revenue and Ontario’s Minister of Finance, as has Mayor John Tory, in a separate letter.”
Substantial resources are being dedicated to helping affected tenants, Smith said.
“We sympathize with those who have been negatively impacted by ARC’s actions and are working diligently to bring them relief and resolution. »