Phrase “land owned by” did not include both beneficial and legal ownership

Ontario civil | Assessment


Phrase “land owned by” did not include both beneficial and legal ownership

This was stated case referred to court under s. 43 of Assessment Act (Ont.), and s. 31, paragraph 9 of General, O. Reg 282/98 (Ont.). Applicants appealed assessment of numerous properties on basis that they should have been assessed in farm property class under s. 8(2) of regulation. Issue was whether use of phrase “land owned by” in s. 8(2)(3) of regulation as it related to real property included both beneficial and legal ownership. Application granted. In general, word “owner” referred to legal owner of land. Meaning might be extended to include beneficial owners depending on subject matter and context. Purpose of legislation was to keep farmland in production as long as possible, whether land was owned by farmers or investors. Legislative purpose and legislative history were not helpful in determining meaning of phrase. Most recent authority from Court of Appeal was that term owner meant legal owner of land. Presumption of consistent expression and presumption against tautology were very important in construing taxation statute. “Owner” could not be given different meanings in act and regulation depending on context, as that would promote unpredictability and uncertainty. If different term was used such as “beneficial interest” in s. 9(2)1 of regulation, it was because different meaning was intended. It could be presumed that no provision, such as inclusion of “trust” in s. 8(2)3 was unnecessary. It could be presumed that if “owner” meant legal owner in one s. it had same meaning elsewhere in act and regulation. Section 19(5.1) was not rendered meaningless if ownership was restricted to legal ownership. Phrase “land owned by” in s. 8(2)3 of regulation as it related to real property was restricted to legal ownership. It did not include both beneficial and legal ownership.
Walton International Group Inc. v. Ontario (Administrator, Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program) (July 23, 2012, Ont. S.C.J. (Div. Ct.), Aston, Sachs and Herman JJ., File No. 382/11) 219 A.C.W.S. (3d) 21 (17 pp.).

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