Rogers claims B.C. Assessment refuses to fix mistake causing $4.6M in over-taxation

·3 min read
A Rogers Communications store is pictured in Vancouver on Nov. 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A Rogers Communications store is pictured in Vancouver on Nov. 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Rogers Communications has filed a lawsuit against B.C. Assessment, alleging the corporation is refusing to correct a mistake that's led to the media company being over-taxed by roughly $4.6 million in recent years.

In a petition filed Tuesday, Rogers claimed the Crown corporation has known about the error for more than a year, but hasn't fixed it because staff were worried about being criticized.

"Its concern was that if B.C. Assessment agreed to issue a supplementary assessment ... it would be 'called on the carpet' and reprimanded," read the B.C. Supreme Court document.

None of Rogers' allegations have been proven.

Fibre-optic cable inventory

Rogers says the problem started with the thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cable it owns and operates throughout B.C.

The cables — used for high-speed internet, phone and TV — run across the province in places like buildings, trenches and even underwater. Rogers "often" sells or trades its cables to other companies, according to the petition.

Since infrastructure on any property has an effect on its value, Rogers reports its cable inventory to B.C. Assessment every year. The Crown corporation is responsible for assessing property values across the province so the government can decide how it's taxed.

But Rogers says it made a mistake in 2019.

It sent the summary of all of its cables, but mistakenly also included the ones that had been sold or traded.

"As a result, [Rogers] is assessed for fibre optic cable that it does not own," the petition says.

The company said the mistake meant its properties were over-assessed by a total of roughly $15.6 million in 2020 and 2021.

The taxes on that over-assessment came to more than $4.6 million, according to the claim.

B.C. Assessment has not filed a response to the petition in court. A spokesperson reached Friday declined to comment on an ongoing case.

Rogers hires consultant

Rogers said it hired an independent consultant after seeing the 2020 assessment to try and resolve the issue.

So began more than a year of emails, phone calls and meetings between the Altus Group and B.C. Assessment, according to the petition.

In one meeting last June, Rogers said B.C. Assessment was firm in its stance that it was too late to change the 2020 assessment.

Staff acknowledged the 2021 paperwork could be changed, according to the petition, but they allegedly didn't want to do it because they were concerned about being "reprimanded" over the situation.

"Issuing a supplementary assessment would require B.C. Assessment to validate and prove that the data in [Rogers'] fibre report was correct," the petition said.

The company claimed B.C. Assessment suggested another solution: reach out to each individual local government for a refund or a tax break down the road.

Most assessment challenges in B.C. are resolved through the corporation's appeal process. Rogers said it didn't file an appeal because its consultant had been working directly with staff at the assessor to try and find a solution.

The company's petition is asking for a formal declaration that its 2021 assessment is inaccurate. It's also asking a judge to order B.C. Assessment to amend the error.

Documents said Rogers already paid its $2.3 million tax bill for the 2020 year, but has not paid for 2021.

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