Despite any improvements gained through pre-roll consultations between MPAC and stakeholders, there’s plenty of room for improvement agreed panelists at the RICS & IPTI 8th Annual Property Tax Seminar in Toronto.
MPAC launched a series of consultations in 2016 to engage with all stakeholders, gather information and provide foresight into the assessment before releasing it to municipalities.
The consultations are referred to as pre-roll consultations, intended to tackle disputes and misinformation early on so that the numbers MPAC provides to municipalities are solid. The municipalities use the assessment roll when determining their tax needs. When property owners disagree with the values assigned to them by MPAC, they undergo a series of steps that often ends with the municipality repaying the taxes they’ve collected. When commercial properties dispute their assessed values, municipalities can be required to pay back significant amounts.
“MPAC must ensure there is sufficient time to fully engage with the stakeholders, receive and reflect the information in the assessments and to demonstrate to the stakeholders that MPAC is treating this as an important exercise, not just a box to be checked when completed,” acknowledged Greg Baxter, Director of Valuation and Customer Relations at MPAC.
Baxter stressed that there are planned improvements for 2020 to provide stakeholders with the information they need for more interactive engagement during pre-roll assessments.
“The goal and mandate are no surprises,” said Baxter. “No surprises to you, municipalities and property owners.”
The Annual Property Tax Seminar was a chance for industry professionals to bring their concerns to MPAC about how assessments are done and disputed in Ontario where all property is assessed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
On the panel with Baxter was Carmela Romano from the City of Toronto and Phil Sanford from McCarthy Tetrault.
Romano stressed that though things have improved over recent assessment years, she would like to see more engagement in the pre-roll process with longer timelines that allow her staff to review the methodology guides and market valuation reports so they’re able to respond.
“Things may have to be different this time,” said Romano. “We have a 25-member council. In the past, you’ve given us data but now that the wards are so much larger, it would be helpful if there were more local-based, issue-based reporting for the councillors.”
Also important to the City of Toronto is that MPAC increase its local knowledge and inspections so MPAC will know when a property owner has done renovations and other local details. “People want to know you’re out there and you understand what’s happening.”
Phil Sanform agreed the consultations are a good idea that could be improved upon. “Clients didn’t understand why they should take part in the pre-roll consultation. If it’s done right, pre-roll consultation helps everybody. In lots of cases that I was involved in, that was the outcome. The assessments were better, Carmela had less work and MPAC had the information they needed,” he said.
The next province-wide assessment update is in 2020. At that time, MPAC will provide municipalities with an updated roll that will be used to set tax policy at the municipal level.