St. Lazare clarifies tax-exempt status accorded to various home-based religious organizations
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the awarding of a tax-free status to certain residential properties deemed as religious or government entities is done through the provincial Commission municipale Québec which reviews all applications to determine their validity.
The religious status of some residential properties that allows owners to pay little to no taxes was brought up again by resident Richard Meades during question period at the Tuesday evening council meeting, September 6.
Meades, who first raised the issue at the August council meeting and provided addresses and photos of certain houses, asked Mayor Robert Grimaudo why these residences were allowed to forego paying property taxes.
“What the story on this?” asked Meades. “Why are these people getting off scot-free on taxes while we’re paying through the nose?”
“I received a complete report on the subject,” said Grimaudo. “In fact I did it with (District 5) Councillor Serge David because he was also asking questions after the last council meeting. I’m not going to go through the 30-some properties that are listed as either religious or municipal or so forth here.”
Grimaudo then invited Meades to make an appointment to review report. “You’re welcome to come and sit in my office. I have the complete list and I would love to show it to you. I also have no problem explaining the rules and regulations that they have to abide by.”
Grimaudo said most of the 300 to 400 properties with tax exempt status belong to the municipality. “Most of it is town property – roads, parks, infrastructure – so we’re not going to be paying taxes to ourselves,” he said.
He added that of the approximately 30 residences in the town that do have a tax exempt status, they have been officially certified as non-profit organizations by the Commission municipale Québec, a provincial regulatory body that reviews all applications to determine their legitimacy before being accorded tax-free status.
“It’s not the town that decides this,” said Grimaudo. “It’s a provincial government regulation that clearly states if you’re a religious institution, you do not pay municipal taxes. Churches don’t pay taxes. If you run a community centre out of your home for religious or government reasons, you don’t pay taxes.”
He pointed out that one St. Lazare resident has a home-based office for a local school commission who also doesn’t pay taxes. “This is a provincial regulation that we abide by and this is the way it is,” said Grimaudo.
“If you’re a religious organization, you have to apply to the commission and they make a decision as to whether the status is legitimate or not. Then the commission advises the town and we have to abide by their decision,” Grimaudo added.
If anyone disputes the awarding of a religious status to any property, a request can be made to the commission asking them to review their decision if they feel a person or organization is not abiding to the regulations accorded by their accredited status, said Grimaudo.
“If a person wants to contest a decision, they have all the right in the world to do that. A citizen can call the commission and say, ‘I don’t think that guy has a religious community centre working out his home’, and the commission will investigate.”