Property Tax disputes

The Village of Hazelton received an email to dispute on what a property owner/company was charged for their property taxes, and they did not pay a full amount.

What I need help with is how other municipalities handle the disputes for property taxes, if you have any policies in place, or what your standard practices are for this.

If you can email me at [email protected] or post on this thread would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance GFOA Forum!

Kelsey Green
Deputy Finance Officer
Village of Hazelton
Email: [email protected] | Ph: 250.842.5991 | Fax: 250.842.5152

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Comments

  • I'll be interested in seeing responses to this myself!

  • On what basis are they disputing their taxes? There is no real avenue to dispute property taxes assuming the taxes were levied in accordance with the assessed value and your tax rates bylaw. If you are in line with the correct assessment and duly authorized tax rates per your bylaw, there's not much they can dispute.

    We had one of our industrial customers (Catalyst Paper) dispute their taxes back in 2009. They paid a fraction of what was owed, based on a report they had commissioned that outlined what they felt taxes would be. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled that taxes levied in accordance with the assessed value and a duly imposed tax rates bylaw are owed, no question. You can read the judgement here:

    https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7987/index.do

    In the end, Catalyst paid the full taxes owing plus penalty. They then closed the mill here in Campbell River (so who really won? - but that's another story).

    I would continue to send reminder notices and clearly outline that if taxes remain unpaid, the property will be sold at tax sale. Document everything you have for correspondence etc. If it goes to tax sale you will thank yourself for keeping a clear record of communication.

  • What exactly are they disputing? The assessment class or assessment amount? The calculation? A parcel tax? A flat levy? Are they claiming a mistake by the Village or BC Assessment or do they just not like the amount that they have to pay?

    I have made adjustments if there was an error in the calculation, or a parcel was incorrectly added to a service area, or BC Assessment made an error (only if they issued a supplemental adjustment for the year in question).

    1. When a dispute arises, make sure that the owners knows to pay the full amount of taxes by the due date otherwise there will be a penalty added to any unpaid taxes. This is a courtesy but it helps to make your job easier when they try to dispute the penalty afterwards.
    2. Penalized the unpaid taxes if not paid by the due date.
    3. Look into the problem and only make an adjustments to the tax amount if a mistake was made on your part. If BC Assessment issues a supplemental adjustment, the taxpayer will get an refund when the supplemental file is processed by the Village.
    4. Always keep a record of anything you do on this file including notes from phone calls with the taxpayer.
  • Thank you all for the responses so far, I appreciate your assistance on this!

    What this owner is disputing are the arrear taxes plus the interest brought forward, they believe that they paid a full amount as shown on their tax billing (with our tax billings we explicitly say we amounts show are without interest for arrear/delinquent tax amounts); also the front-desk staff improperly marked the total amount being paid, when in actuality it had an o/s balance.

    • Hopefully that made sense.

    Kelsey Green
    Deputy Finance Officer
    Village of Hazelton
    Email: [email protected] | Ph: 250.842.5991 | Fax: 250.842.5152

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