The end of the three-year assessment freeze could mean homeowners in some parts of the province may face double-digit hikes in property taxes.  The provincial assessment freeze ended on January 1st.  However, the Ontario government says it plans to spread out any assessment increases over the next four years.

The freeze was initiated following several complaints from property owners to the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) was conducting inaccurate and unfair assessments.  Following an investigation, the Ombudsman’s Office made 20 recommendations for improvements to MPAC’s assessment system including changes to the way the Crown Corporation communicated with property owners.

As of the last report, the Ombudsman stated that MPAC had completed 10 of the 20 recommendations and was moving forward on the remainder.  Among the completed recommendations is a revised brochure that is sent out with reassessment notices.  This brochure now mentions how important it is that MPAC’s information be accurate and urges people to report any inaccuracies.  It tells them clearly how they can review their assessment and look at up to 24 property comparables, through a section of its Web site called “About My Property”.  It also stresses: “If an error has been made, we will correct it.  We are also happy to explain how we arrived at your assessed value and answer any questions.”  Finally, it explains all the various ways you can complain about or challenge your assessment.  In addition, the MPAC Web site now offers a lot more information about how properties are evaluated, and has posted many of its procedures online.

A new Property Taxpayer Web Portal is also being developed, through which owners will be able to access their Property Profile Report and comparables.  The assessment notice form itself is also being redesigned for 2008.  MPAC has done internal consultations, focus groups and property taxpayer customer interviews about this new form-but it is still reviewing it, because of the potential impact of the province’s new four-year reassessment schedule.

In the meantime, the revised assessment process is under way and property owners will be receiving their assessments in August and September.  Current property taxes are based on market value assessments conducted by MPAC for January 1, 2005, and are determined by comparisons with the average city property value. If the estimated value of a property increases at a rate below the city average, the homeowner’s property tax will increase.  The reassessed values, with a valuation date of January 1, 2008, will apply to the tax years 2009 through 2012.

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