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The report graded provinces as well as the largest city in each province. In Ontario, property value assessments take about four years, the think tank says.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The C.D. Howe Institute has handed out report cards on Canada's business property taxes – and Ontario gets a failing grade.

The Toronto-based think tank's third annual business-tax-burden report gave Canada's biggest province "Fs" for both the simplicity and transparency of its business property tax structure. Prince Edward Island was the only province awarded straight "A's."

The study graded provinces as well as the largest city in each province on two matters: How straightforward their tax structures are (the ideal being a single effective tax rate for all business properties, based on valuations no older than the previous year); and how easy it is for prospective investors to find and understand public information on the tax structure.

"Ontario has arguably the most complex, opaque, unaccountable and inequitable provincial [business property tax] regime in Canada," the report said. "It levies [tax] rates that differ by municipality, by property class within a municipality, by property within a property class and even by component of a single property's assessment." It added that Ontario's structure for assessing property values "results in a constant assessment lag of approximately four years."

When property and land-transfer taxes are included, the study found that Saskatoon has overtaken Calgary as the city with the lowest overall tax burden on new business investment. Montreal is the highest-taxing city.