Toronto, like many other major cities around the world, is grappling with the challenges of urban housing. As the city continues to evolve and attract new residents, policymakers are exploring innovative solutions to address the housing shortage and ensure a sustainable and vibrant urban environment. One such solution that has gained traction in recent years is the Toronto Vacant Home Tax.
Understanding the Vacant Home Tax
The Vacant Home Tax (VHT) is a policy aimed at encouraging property owners to put their vacant properties into productive use by imposing a tax on homes that remain unoccupied for extended periods. Homeowners who choose to keep their properties vacant will be subject to this tax and VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: residents are required to declare the occupancy status of their property every year, even if they reside there.
In Toronto, this initiative represents a proactive approach to address the housing crisis, promote community engagement, and maximize the utilization of available housing stock. Revenues collected from the Vacant Home Tax will be allocated towards affordable housing initiatives, including the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) program.
How to Declare Your Homes Occupancy Status
Owners of properties in Toronto that are classified within the residential property tax class are required to declare occupancy status every year and can do so by visiting the City of Torontos Vacant Home Tax Portal. You’ll also need the following:
- Assessment Roll Number, found on your property tax statement
- Customer Number, found on your property tax statement
- If applicable, documents required to show your Vacant Home Tax Exemption
The whole process will take less than 5 minutes, and can save you thousands in unnecessary taxes each year!
Fees Fines and Penalties Related to the Toronto Vacant Home Tax
If the declaration is not submitted by the specified deadline, the property will be considered vacant and will become subject to the Vacant Home Tax. Starting January 1, 2024, a fee of $21.24 will be imposed for failing to submit the declaration of occupancy status by the designated deadline.
Interest charges, amounting to 1.25 percent, will be applied to any outstanding Vacant Home Tax balance on the initial day of default and subsequently on the first day of each subsequent month until the outstanding taxes or charges are settled.
In case of payment default, the unpaid amount will be included in the property tax roll for the residential property and will be collected in the same manner as regular property taxes.
Any payments dishonored by a financial institution will incur a Dishonoured Cheque Processing/Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fee.
Failure to submit the declaration of occupancy status by the deadline may lead to a $250 fine. Additionally, making false declarations regarding occupancy status or failing to provide requested information may result in a fine of up to $10,000, in addition to the required tax payment.
Exemptions to the Vacant Home Tax
A property may be left vacant and be exempt from the Vacant Home Tax if one of the following criteria is met:
- Death of a registered owner – (need to show death cert.)
- Major repairs – (submit work permits and contractor receipts.)
- The principal resident is in long-term care (hospital or supportive care facility)
- Transfer or Legal ownership (what we just talked about… submit a copy of deed)
- Occupancy for full-time employment (proof of residency outside GTA and signed letter from employer
- Court order – a court order is made which prohibits occupancy of the property
Visit the City of Torontos Vacant Home Tax website for more details!
Key Features of the Toronto Vacant Home Tax
- Definition of Vacancy: The Toronto Vacant Home Tax identifies vacant properties based on specific criteria. Generally, a property is considered vacant if it is unoccupied for more than SIX MONTHS within a calendar year.
- Tax Rates: The tax rates are structured to incentivize property owners to either occupy or rent out their vacant properties. Higher tax rates are typically applied to properties that remain vacant for more extended periods, creating a progressive system that encourages swift action.
- Exemptions and Appeals: The policy also considers legitimate reasons for property vacancy, such as renovations or major repairs. Property owners can apply for exemptions, and there is an appeals process in place to address any disputes regarding the determination of vacancy.
Impact on Toronto’s Housing Landscape
The Vacant Home Tax is expected to have several positive impacts on Toronto’s housing market:
- Increased Housing Availability: By discouraging long-term vacancy, the tax aims to bring more housing units into the market, increasing the overall availability of homes for residents.
- Neighborhood Revitalization: The initiative is likely to contribute to the revitalization of neighborhoods by reducing the number of empty homes and fostering a sense of community.
- Revenue for City Services: The tax revenue generated can be used to fund essential city services and initiatives aimed at addressing housing challenges and improving the overall quality of life for Toronto residents.
Challenges and Criticisms
While the Vacant Home Tax is seen as a step in the right direction, it has not been without its challenges and criticisms. Some property owners argue that the tax unfairly penalizes them for circumstances beyond their control, such as personal or family reasons for keeping a property vacant.
Toronto’s Vacant Home Tax is a bold and necessary step in addressing the city’s housing challenges. By encouraging the efficient use of available housing stock, the initiative aims to create a more dynamic and inclusive urban environment. It’s important to remember that the deadline for declaring the status of your property is the last day of February and that the property status refers to the previous year’s history.
You can get more information on the latest details of tax, as well as declare the status of your home by visiting the City of Torontos Vacant Home Tax Portal.