A church in the city centre of Montreal has been able to operate a pay parking lot and draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue per year, without paying a penny of property taxes.
The Fabrique of the parish of Saint Patrick, who disputed the fact of having to pay municipal taxes for parking, has successfully sued the City in superior Court, this spring.
Saint Patrick’s basilica is located at the corner of René-Lévesque and Saint-Alexandre, in the heart of the city centre.
Until last year, outside of the hours of religious services, the parking was paid and frequented by many workers in the city centre.
Some rented the same space in the month for their vehicle.
In 2014, the City of Montreal has called for taxes to the church of more than $ 200 000, under the pretext that the parking lot was not used for religious purposes most of the time.
According to court filings, the parking generated revenues of approximately $ 300,000 per year.
The Fabrique of the parish of St. Patrick had challenged the tax account for parking, without success, before the administrative Tribunal of Québec by 2016.
In 2018, the Quebec Court had refused to review the case.
Since then, the parking lot is closed.
Lot to be sold
The land has been sold in 2018 and the construction of a new building of HEC Montreal was started last year.
But, last march, the parish has been successful.
According to judge Francis Bachand of the superior Court, if a parking lot ” is at least in part, to the exercise of public worship “, it may qualify for an exemption of all its property taxes.
In Quebec, the religious institutions do not pay property taxes on their buildings if they are used “primarily” to the exercise of public worship.
But according to the judge Bachand, the concept of primary use does not apply to the dependencies, in this case, the parking lot, because the act is not drafted as such.
The professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal and a specialist in municipal issues, Danielle Pilette, argues that this judgment could ” do school “.
“There are a lot of factories catholics who are in the same situation, she says. To contribute to the maintenance and ensure their survival, they have to rent parking spaces, not just to those who come to the primary use. “
She points out that this judgment reveals gaps in the law of Quebec, which should be revised.
“The judge is based on a decision of the supreme Court, which said that the tribunal does not have to take the taxpayer’s point of view,” she says.
“If the law on secularity applies, it should be consistent. Is it that we are in a secular State or a State that helps places of worship ?” suggests she.
Millions in exemptions
According to a survey conducted last year by our Office of investigation, the exemption from taxes to religious buildings represents a shortfall of approximately$ 65 Million a year in taxes for the municipalities of the island of Montreal.