Toronto plans to ditch land transfer tax

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The squeaky Toronto homebuyer may just have received some much requested oil, with the city’s mayor confirming he will indeed move on plans to first lower and then abolish the land transfer tax.

“I campaigned we’d get rid of it by the end of my term and if we do it in pieces, we’ll do it in pieces, but I’m going to keep my promise,” Rob Ford said last week during a TV interview. “We’re going to be tackling that (next year).”

The move – or rather the promise of a move – comes a week after Toronto Realtors amped up their lobby efforts for repeal of the tax, taking that fight to City Hall.

Last week they presented a new survey suggesting public support for axing the tax is relatively strong – even despite the budget crisis.

“TREB supports the recommended 2012 Budget because it continues the process of bringing fiscal sustainability back to City Hall,” said Richard Silver, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board last week in a written release, “however, while we support the direction of this Budget, we are pointing out that it does not begin the process of fulfilling Mayor Ford's commitment to repeal the Toronto Land Transfer Tax in 2012. This is a commitment that is strongly supported by Torontonians.”

The board presented that “strong” support to a beleaguered Budget Committee, sharing its recent online poll of 1,000 city residents.

It suggests as much as 65 per cent of Torontonians continue to support Mayor Ford's commitment to repeal the Toronto Land Transfer Tax. That figure drops to 57 per cent when respondents were asked to consider the city’s deficit and “recent efforts to address it.”

That backs up Realtor concerns about the tax and its effect on housing activity, which for now remains stable. They were quick to welcome Thursday’s announcement, but want to see a definite timeframe put in place.

“Mayor Ford deserves to be applauded for sticking to his convictions and delivering on campaign commitments,” said Silver. That is what Torontonians elected him to do. The Land Transfer Tax is not good for Torontonians or the City. We look forward to working with the Mayor and Council to get rid of this unfair tax.”

But any move to remove that tax could significantly add to the cost-cutting already threatening to limit access to key services, charge councillors opposed to the move.

“We’re $770 million in the hole,” Mihevc told CREW in September. “And this would add another $300 million. I think it’s got to stay. And you know what? Frankly, I think it’d be better if [TREB] put pressure on the provincial government to remove its share of the land transfer tax. We’re the poor cousin in the family, not them.”

The provincial government and the City of Toronto charge separate land transfer taxes on home purchases. Buyers of a home worth $450,000, for instance, would have to pay roughly $5,500 to the province and $4,700 to the city for a total $10,200 in land transfer taxes.

Ford introduced the idea of ditching the tax during the last election.


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