Toronto city council should free the Aga Khan Museum from paying property tax. Similar cultural treasures are already tax exempt.
Published on Mon Nov 02 2015
A significant amount of tax money would be lost — $240,000 otherwise going to Toronto city hall, and another $92,000 for education. But it’s more than offset by what’s brought to the city through the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre.
This religious centre and museum complex, just off the Don Valley Parkway at Eglinton Ave., is renowned for its elegant architecture, lush landscaping, and one of the finest collections of Islamic art in the world. The museum includes a 350-seat theatre, restaurant, classrooms, and areas for art conservation as well as exhibition space. In short, it’s an architectural and artistic treasure.
As a place of worship, the Ismaili Centre is already tax exempt. But the non-profit museum is supposed to pay annual property tax of more than $330,000, a bill the Aga Khan Foundation would like the city to forego. City council is to consider the issue on Tuesday and it should grant the museum a break. The province must also agree.
Property tax is already waived for large cultural institutions such as the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and even the Toronto International Film Festival. The exemption for TIFF alone costs $870,000 in foregone municipal tax revenue. Denying equal treatment for an exceptional asset such as the Aga Khan Museum is difficult to justify.
A report from city staff notes that most charities are required to pay property tax. And it raises concern that an exemption in this case could inspire other groups to request similar treatment. Perhaps so, but the Aga Khan Museum is in a class apart. It’s a magnificent cultural gem, drawing visitors from around the world and operating entirely on a non-profit basis. Given the exemption granted to comparable assets, it’s only fair that city hall and Queen’s Park give it the same favourable treatment.