by BETTER FARMING STAFF
During the budget announcement earlier this week, treasurer Dwight Duncan declared his intention to introduce legislation this year that would require the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to prove the accuracy of its assessment in the case of an appeal.
As the law stands, in an appeal the onus is on the property owner to prove that an assessment is wrong. The budget statement says Duncan’s proposed change "would enhance the fairness of the appeal process" and would apply to property assessments that are appealed to the Assessment Review Board.
The province also intends to introduce legislation to make the assessment appeal system more transparent. The change will make the Request for Reconsideration (RPR) program the first stage of the appeal process for property owners. The RFR is free of charge and "provides taxpayers with the opportunity to resolve their concerns directly with MPAC in an informal setting."
Last year, the province committed to a four-year assessment cycle, Ontario Federation of Agriculture researcher Jason Bent said. The new plan makes a lot more sense, he said.
A review of the appeal process was announced in last year’s budget. The process, as it stands, is “set up weird.”
A property owner can apply for a reassessment up to Dec 31. But the deadline for the second step is months earlier, usually Mar. 31.
It’s sort of like, ‘if you aren’t happy with the teacher you can talk to the principal. The teacher is here all day. The principal leaves at noon,’” Bents said.
Assessment notices are going out this fall. The valuation date was Jan. 1, 2008 and will apply for the 2009 tax year.
In 2006, the province froze property assessments after the Ontario Ombudsman blasted MPAC’s approach to property assessment for being unfair, often inaccurate and overly secretive. The two-year freeze, applied to 2006 and 2007, was intended to give MPAC time to act on the ombudsman’s recommendations.
At the time, Conservative critics warned about a sudden and dramatic jump in assessment to make up for increases that would have taken place during the freeze.
Bent said once October rolls around “we will see where property values have gone and how people feel about the property taxes they are paying.” BF