Friday, February 09, 2024

Canadian Court Upholds Denial of Tax Exemption for Island Owned by Shinto Organization

In Matsuri Foundation of Canada v. British Columbia (Assessor of Area #01 - Capital), (BC Sup. Ct., February 2, 2024), the Supreme Court of the Canadian province of British Columbia upheld the denial of a property tax exemption sought by the Matsuri Foundation of Canada.  The court summarized its decision as follows:

Matsuri sought, and the Board denied, a property tax exemption for the lands and improvements that comprise Knapp Island, British Columbia, as a “place of public worship” pursuant to s. 15(1)(d) of the Taxation (Rural Area) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 448 [Rural Area Taxation Act].

Knapp Island is a 31-acre island located just off Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula near Swartz Bay. Matsuri is a registered Canadian charity with the purpose of the advancement of the Shinto religion. Matsuri owns Knapp Island.

With respect to the 2022 taxation year, the [Property Assessment Appeal] Board found that the “place of public worship” exemption was not applicable to Knapp Island because Matsuri had not established that the public were invited to, and had access to, Knapp Island, and that its principal use was therefore not for public worship. The Board found that to the extent that Knapp Island was used for worship, that worship was private, and not public.

Matsuri accepts the Board’s factual finding on this issue. However, Matsuri argues that the Board should nevertheless have found that Knapp Island was entitled to an exemption on fairness and equity grounds, when compared to other similar properties in British Columbia.

The Assessor argues that the Board’s decision should be upheld, and that the evidence does not support a tax exemption on equity grounds.

I find that the Board’s analysis fully addressed the equity issue in this case, and properly denied the requested exemption, and I would therefore dismiss the appeal.

CTV News reports on the decision.