Rogers Overpays $2.2 Million in B.C. Property Taxes, Judge Rejects Appeal

Rogers’s claims that the company overpaid property taxes on its fibre-optic cables for the 2021 tax year by $2.2 million because of a B.C. Assessment error have been rejected by a B.C. judge — reports CTV News.

The telecom giant was seeking an order of “mandamus,” a legal term for a ruling that would require a public body to perform its duty.

Rogers wanted B.C. Assessment to conduct a supplementary assessment for the 2021 tax year, correcting the supposed errors and reversing the overpaid taxes. The company even alleged that it had intimated B.C. Assessment of the errors, but the institution refused to correct them.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma ruled against Rogers’s petition. According to Judge Sharma, Rogers was to blame for the original miscalculation of taxes and the company did not appeal the matter despite having the right to do so.

“BC Assessment does not – and lacks the capacity to – inspect any fibre-optic cables,” Sharma wrote in her ruling. “Instead, it relies on annual self-reporting by Rogers, who provides information about its fibre inventory, the lit/dark status of the cables, and any new cables compared to the previous year.”

Sharma said that up until 2019, Rogers provided a self-report with an update to the previous year’s inventory outlining any new cables that had been added. However, Rogers changed its reporting format in 2019.

“What is not disputed is that, for its 2019 self-report (for the 2020 taxation year), Rogers provided a ‘data dump’ to BC Assessment, which included all existing fibre-optic cables regardless of year of installation,” Sharma added.

“That information did not exclude individual optical fibres within the cables owned by third parties through Irrevocable Rights of Use Agreements. Rogers submits that this reporting resulted in an overpayment of taxes that was carried forward into the 2021 taxation year.”

Sharma said in her decision that Rogers provided information to B.C. Assessment late on multiple occasions. Furthermore, Rogers claimed it also overpaid taxes for 2020 but did not challenge those in court.

Judge Sharma concluded that the courts would not grant Rogers an order of mandamus because the company had other avenues to seek correction but did not make use of them. In a letter sent to Rogers in July 2021, B.C. Assessment told the company:

Errors or omissions in previous roll years are binding on all parties. Accordingly, the 2020 roll cannot be amended regardless of Rogers’s incorrect inventory declaration. Given Rogers’s opportunity to inquire with (BC Assessment) and/or seek an independent review from the (Property Assessment Review Panel), (BC Assessment) will not be issuing supplementary assessments to amend the 2021 roll. Notwithstanding, we are working with Rogers to ensure their 2022 roll inventory declaration is accurate.

B.C. Assessment “may” issue a supplemental roll to correct errors in the case of an over-assessment, but the authority is not obligated to do so. That said, Rogers could have appealed the assessment on time or taken the matter up with the PARP, but it did not.

The third quarter has been a bit rough for Rogers. The company is also on the hook for $150 million in customer credits to make up for a nationwide network outage back in July.

Rogers is currently in the throes of a regulatory battle to decide the fate of its proposed $26 billion acquisition of rival telecom operator Shaw Communications.