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Toronto taxpayers double-billed on property tax after pre-authorization snag

Click to play video: 'City taxpayers get unexpected $87 million bank bill'
City taxpayers get unexpected $87 million bank bill
WATCH ABOVE: City taxpayers get unexpected $87 million bank bill. Sean O'Shea explains – Mar 1, 2017

The City of Toronto admits a banking error has improperly double-billed thousands of taxpayers who subscribe to its pre-authorized payment program.

“We want to apologize,” said Jackie DeSouza, director of strategic communications for the city.

She acknowledged that city hall “became aware of an issue” Wednesday morning involving customers whose tax payments are debited from their bank accounts, either twice a year or six times a year.

READ MORE: Toronto city council approves 2017 budget, 2% property tax increase

DeSouza said the mistake affected 44,000 customers representing more than $87 million in payments that were double-billed.

Azim Ruda, who contacted Global News initially to complain after seeing the mistake, said he believes other customers won’t be unaware of it until they check their bank accounts.

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“Shame,” said Ruda, who pays half his taxes on March 1 and the other half on July 2.

Ruda said he got an unwelcome surprise Wednesday morning when he checked his account.

READ MORE: Toronto home prices are crazy. Here’s when you need to worry about a housing bubble — and when you don’t

The bank had withdrawn the proper amount, $1,365, and made a second, incorrect withdrawal for the same amount.

Ruda also helps manage the finances for his 75-year-old aunt. He said her tax payment of $1,271 was also debited twice.

“I had to physically go to my bank and spend almost an hour, all because of their error,” said Ruda.

He added he’s concerned for other taxpayers for whom the double-debit would cause a serious financial problem.

DeSouza told Global News the city is in discussions with the Royal Bank of Canada, its financial institution, to rectify the mistake.

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