"To file, or not to file..."
Recently Ontario’s Assessment Review Board ruled on a case involving a potential change in tax class. The Board ruled largely in the municipality’s favor, moving the property to the multi-residential tax class, which is taxed at a much higher rate than the residential class the taxpayer argued for.
An interesting follow up to the case came with the review decision. The entire review turned on which years had actually been appealed. The taxpayer never filed for 2013, but they did file for 2014, which under the deeming provisions meant that 2015 and 2016 were also under appeal. The municipality advanced several lines of argument why the Board should allow the 2013 appeal. All of them were rejected. “This Board only has the power to address issues that a properly brought before it. The Rules cannot cure a failure to file an appeal.”
This is a very important statement, and one often not appreciated by taxpayers. The question of whether to file an appeal or not is not one to be taken lightly. Not filing can result in over-taxation for years. Even if a major issue is uncovered, it can generally only be corrected if a valid appeal is before the Board. There is a provision for creating late complaints under ‘palpable error’ provisions, but those are very limited. The municipality attempted to use those provisions in this case, but the Board ruled “The City had the ability to appeal the 2013 assessment and chose not to do so. It is fair that they bear the cost of that failure.”
At the beginning of the decision, the Board writes: “This motion turns on the importance of initiating proceedings. … the Board cannot make decisions on issues unless someone has properly brought that matter before the Board.” Not filing an appeal when there is cause for reduction can result in overpaying taxes, often very significantly. Filing appeals when there is a potential exposure can result in an unexpected tax increase. Both possibilities show the need for bringing in an experienced property tax adviser.