The Province of Ontario, municipalities and affected Boards and corporations are in the midst of dealing with emergency processes to aid property tax payees throughout Ontario in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The end of March is typically the deadline for appeals to the Assessment Review Board for each taxation year for most property types. In addition to appeals, based on Ontario's four-year assessment cycle, the assessment of all properties was scheduled to be released starting in Spring 2020. This assessment sets the value upon which taxes are based for the following tax assessment cycle (typically for four years).

In an unprecedented move, the Government of Ontario's passing of O. Reg. 73/20 has changed both appeal deadlines for the 2020 taxation year and the assessment cycle for the 2021 taxation year.

Appealing the 2020 Taxation Year

Requests for Reconsideration

If your property falls within the residential, farm or managed forests property class, an appeal cannot be filed with the Assessment Review Board unless a Request for Reconsideration ("RfR") has been made with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation ("MPAC"). Other properties within Ontario may also file an RfR prior to filing an appeal, though this step is not required. The RfR deadline is usually March 31 of the applicable taxation year.

Pursuant to O. Reg. 73/20 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the RfR deadline for the 2020 taxation year will be 16 days after the emergency declared by the Province of Ontario is lifted.

Appeal to the Assessment Review Board

On March 26, 2020, the Assessment Review Board acknowledged that O. Reg. 73/20 suspended limitation periods and procedural time periods retroactive to March 16, 2020. This has provided less clarity for appeal timelines than has occurred with respect to RfRs.

The Assessment Review Board has determined, as of March 26, 2020, that the application of O. Reg. 73/20 is that if current and/or new parties are not able to meet a timeline, Tribunals Ontario will allow them to do so at a later date. No other specifics are provided at this time.

The message appears to be that there will be some leniency with respect to timelines in many circumstances, but the extent of that leniency is still unknown.

Valuing the 2021 Taxation Year

Property taxation is based on the assessed value of properties and in Ontario those assessments are updated every four years. The last assessment update was in 2016 (the "2016 Current Value Assessment (CVA)"), with the Ontario government planning on completing the Ontario-wide reassessment in 2020 for the 2021 taxation year. This would have meant new assessments being issued beginning this Spring 2020.

The Ontario Government announced through their Economic and Fiscal Update that the reassessment scheduled for 2020 has been postponed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This means that assessments for the 2021 taxation year will be based on the 2016 CVA. The length of this delay is unclear.

Examples of Property Tax Relief Programs in Various Municipalities

The Government of Ontario has deferred the quarterly remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days with the hopes that municipalities would be able to pass on property tax deferrals to their constituents. Many municipalities have created a property tax relief deferral program to aid its constituents during these times. For municipalities not listed below, please reach out to your municipality or Gowling WLG to find out what options are available for your property.

City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa has provided a grace period for payment of interim taxes to Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

The City of Ottawa has also created an interest free 30-day payment grace period for all unpaid water bills issued before April 1, 2020, and a 30-day due date extension for all water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020.

2020 Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program

On March 25, 2020, the City of Ottawa created the 2020 Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program for both residents and businesses that have an assessed property value of up to $7.5 million. Property owners must apply before July 31, 2020. To qualify for the program, the applicant would need to demonstrate the following:

  1. The property owner must have experienced financial hardship directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. Property taxes have been paid up to date before the March 2020 interim installment;
  3. The property is either:
    1. A taxable residential property with a residential structure; or
    2. A taxable property assessed in the following tax classes; occupied commercial, shopping, office, industrial, multi-residential or new multiresidential class and have a total taxable 2020 property assessment value equal to or under $7.5 million.
  4. The Property owners is experiencing hardship in one or more of the following categories: temporary suspension of pay, loss of employment, excessive business revenue loss or temporary business closure, or another category of financial hardship related directly to the COVID-19 pandemic as determined in the sole discretion of the Chief Financial Officer.

The applicant will not qualify for the 2020 Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program if any of the following apply or occur:

  1. The property owners have received compensation from Business Interruption Insurance towards the payment of property taxes;
  2. The property owners are enrolled in the Farm Grant Program of the Low Income People with Disabilities Tax Deferral Program;
  3. False or inaccurate information is provided in the application to the City of Ottawa; or
  4. Property owners with tenants do not pass on the deferral (if this is the case, all taxes, penalties and interest will become due immediately).

Qualified applicants will have both their interim 2020 taxes and final 2020 taxes deferred to October 30, 2020.

City of Toronto

The City of Toronto is providing a 60 day grace period for property tax payments and payment penalties from March 16, 2020 for all customers. This has included the suspension of all pending automated withdrawals and the holding of post-dated cheques. Customers can still pay through their banking services should they wish.

The City of Toronto has also extended the due date for all utility bills issued by an additional 60 days. This applies to Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges.

City of Waterloo

The City of Waterloo is offering to defer property tax payments to June 1, 2020 without payment. After June 1, 2020, regular interest charges will resume.

The City of Waterloo has also stated that it will not be charging late payment fees for payments due in April and May for property taxes, water and all other accounts receivable.

City of Kitchener

The City of Kitchener is waiving penalties and interest on property taxes for April and May 2020. Late payment fees for payments due in April and May for utilities will not be charged.

City of Mississauga

The City of Mississauga has deferred property tax due dates by 90 days to help ease the economic impact of COVID-19 on both residential and commercial properties. This has pushed the April, May and June 2020 interim property tax due dates to July, August and September 2020.

The City of Mississauga has also deferred stormwater charges by 90 days.

With changes occurring daily in response to COVID-19 it is vital that all property tax planning is done with the most up-to-date information. Gowling WLG is pleased to assist with any property tax appeals and deferral applications required during these trying times and recommend that these deadlines are scrutinized in an in depth manner.

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