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Extra $87M in property tax charged due to double-dipping error

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 2nd, 2017

If you have automatic billing set up for your City of Toronto property tax payments, you should check your bank account.

As many as 44,000 residents were charged twice on Wednesday due to “an error in file transfer protocol” — amounting to an extra $87 million withdrawn.

“My expected payment was around $700 and they had deducted basically that same amount twice,” said homeowner Samantha Anne Little, “So, I ended up about $1,400 out.

“I was very lucky. I had enough to cover both payments.”

Casey Brendon, director of the city’s Revenue Services Division, said staff learned of the problem first thing in the morning when customers started calling.

He said only one file should have been sent to the Royal Bank of Canada, the city’s bank. Instead, RBC received two and both were processed.

“The city worked very swiftly with its banking service provider to make sure that credit adjustment was applied to customer’s accounts,” Brendon said.

“That account adjustment has already taken place. Customers should find that their accounts are reflecting their expected balance.”

He said because the error was fixed on the same day, banks should not charge fees for insufficient funds. Any problems should be reported to 311.

Little said she has avoided pre-authorized payments with some of her other bills because of possible mistakes like this.

“This is exactly why I don’t do pre-authorized payments,” she said. “For things like property taxes or gas bills or hydro bills, it’s supposed to be a fairly regular payment within a reasonable amount of money … and that’s why I do that for those types of bills.

“But for other things I don’t because this can happen and put me in quite a difficult financial spot.”

Brendon said the city and RBC are reexamining their file transfer protocol to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.

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