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Supreme Court Lets Toronto’s Billboard Tax Stand

The City can collect its due from outdoor-ad companies.

It looks like billboard owners will have to pay up. Photo by {a href=""}416Pictures{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced today that it’s rejecting a hard-fought legal challenge to Toronto’s billboard tax, meaning the City can continue collecting money from owners of outdoor advertising.

The tax, instituted in 2009 after years of campaigning by activists, dings owners of outdoor ads for annual payments to the City. Billboard companies began suing the City in 2010. Their argument was that levying the billboard tax exceeded the City’s legal authority for a few reasons. According to the Globe, the City hasn’t been collecting the tax during the legal challenge.

This is the latest development in a multi-year fight. In 2011, the companies lost the case, but won an all-important exemption for billboards erected before the tax’s effective date. Then, an appeals court overturned the exemption. Now, the Supreme Court has said that it won’t hear a further appeal of the case. There’s no higher court to hear yet another appeal, so barring any extraordinary shenanigans, this legal wrangling is done.

In 2009, City staff estimated that the tax would bring in $10.4 million per year.

CORRECTION: Novemver 22, 2012, 2:15 PM This post originally cited a Globe and Mail article that claims that the City hasn’t been collecting the billboard tax because of legal action by the billboard industry. A City spokesperson has since told us this is not the case.


  • Eric S. Smith

    I can’t wait for the operators of illegal signs to claim that the tax only applies to legal signs.

    • Anonymous

      It probably does… I’m guessing there’s line saying something like signs “erected persuent to the City’s by-laws on billboards” etc. Can’t wait for that one to hit the courts :-)

  • sue

    now let’s see if the budget chief and city manager remember that this was slated for arts and culture, the folks who got them that money, or if it mysteriously disappears into the the line item known as “general revenue”.

    • Anonymous

      hasn’t that already been the case?