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No more religious exemptions: Montreal is taxing churches

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister in the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his establishment first got a municipal tax bill in ancient 2015.

It had been “the first sign that something had changed,” said Coppetiers.

Provincial law exempts churches and manses from paying municipal taxes but Coppetiers was advised that when a manse is empty for many months between ministers, it is taxable.

After that, city officials came for an inspection of every room in the church and how they were utilized.

“The indication is there is not an exemption for the church as a whole, there is only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and matters directly associated with it,” said Coppetiers.

“We are there to care and serve the community and this is a portion of it,” said Coppetiers.

Coppetiers says taxes are expected even when services are suspended for renovations.

The amount owed in taxes can grow quickly if a church closes its doors.

When Trinity Memorial Church at NDG closed earlier this year, the town began enacting taxes immediately after the last service.

Because of this churches feel pressured to market quickly, with Trinity Memorial being marketed to Stanford Properties Group in just two months.

The issue of places of worship because taxes and fighting the city’s exemptions division came as a surprise to city politicians, such as Councillor Peter McQueen.

“Already our churches are at risk, they are having a range of financial difficulties and this is a further low blow,” said McQueen.

The NDG councillor stated his party, Projet Montreal, will examine the exemption issue, but he said Montreal’s Executive Committee needs to measure up.

“If we do not do something you are likely to find churches closed, churches maybe torn down, heaven forbid, certainly converted away from community use,” said McQueen.

Meanwhile churches throughout the island are praying that the city will stop surprising them with taxes they can not afford.

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