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An outdoor sign on the front of the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Toronto city council on Tuesday approved exempting the Toronto International Film Festival from paying property taxes on the downtown headquarters the organization has occupied since 2010. The break, which requires approval from the Ontario government, will save TIFF, a registered charity, about $900,000 a year on its Bell Lightbox facility at the corner of King Street West and John Street. About half of the relief would come directly from the city, the remainder from the provincial education tax collected by Toronto on Ontario's behalf.

At least six other Toronto not-for-profit cultural organizations already have their property taxes waived, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art and the National Ballet School.

Council took the action to recognize TIFF's importance as "a key piece of cultural and economic infrastructure" and to ease servicing of a $44-million capital debt on the Lightbox.

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According to documents filed with the city, TIFF had 1.63 million visitors to its Lightbox complex in 2011-12 and functions on an annual operating budget of $38-million, $800,000 of which is in direct assistance from the city.

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