When it comes to property tax assessment appeals, watch the deadlines...

What do you mean you need more time?

Most business property tax assessment appeals in Ontario now follow a timeline running over 67 weeks after the commencement date, and in many cases the commencement date is assigned well into the future. This can be very frustrating for taxpayers wanting a speedy resolution. But what happens if, despite this slow process, you need more time?

That is what two recent decisions of the Assessment Review Board (“ARB”) were about. [i] A grocery store chain appealed the assessment of a number of its stores. As the final dates of the timeline approached, the parties were unable to meet their obligations, so they sought relief from the ARB. Specifically they requested relief from the requirement to file expert reports by the deadline, and second, they requested an altered schedule of events for the remaining steps.

The Board’s view of these requests is hinted at early in the decision – “Secondly, the parties seek to alter the Schedule of Events because they have not taken the required steps in the 15 months they have had to complete those steps.” (Emphasis added). Throughout the decision it seems that the Board is suggesting that there is nothing particularly complex about these appeals, and that the parties have had plenty of time.

What is especially interesting about this one is that all three parties to the appeals seem to be in agreement. This isn’t a case of the taxpayer asking for more time and being opposed by the assessors and the municipality. In this case all three parties seem to need (or want) more time. The Board was having none of it. “There is nothing before me indicating that anything atypical or unusual took place to require the alteration of the Schedule of Events.  The parties have had ample time to provide documents, meet, and file material.”

The timelines imposed by the new rules can seem to be unreasonably slow at times, but they appear to also be steady. The ARB has long wanted to find a way to keep files moving forward. There have been quite a few appeals stretching back 5 to 10 years, or even more, before a hearing or settlement occurred. Maybe the Board has finally found the recipe.

[i] https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onarb/doc/2019/2019canlii19491/2019canlii19491.html and https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onarb/doc/2019/2019canlii19490/2019canlii19490.html