Taxpayers will have more time to object to changes in property value
Taxpayers will now get assessment notices months before tax bill arrives in March
The province is taking steps to end the mad scramble every March for New Brunswick landowners upset with their property tax bills to ask for and receive a review. But the changes won't come immediately.
Service New Brunswick Minister Sherry Wilson announced Thursday that beginning next October, homeowners and other property owners will get detailed assessment notices in the mail, five months before a separate tax bill arrives in March.
That will give disgruntled taxpayers plenty of time to object to unexpected changes in their assessed property value for tax purposes and time for assessment officials to evaluate those complaints, without the clock ticking on owed tax bills.
"A separate property assessment notice allows property owners time to better understand and review their assessed values before they receive their property tax notice a few months later," Wilson said.
Separating property assessment notices and property tax bills from each other was one of 25 recommendations made by New Brunswick Auditor General Kim MacPherson in 2017, following her review of that year's property assessment and tax controversy.
The separate notices are already a standard practice in eight provinces and, according to MacPherson's report, the change should have been in place in New Brunswick for the 2019 tax year.
Instead, it will not be ready until the 2021 tax year.
Inflated tax bills
Service New Brunswick CEO Alan Roy said the reform required legislative changes and budget increases that slowed its implementation.
In 2016, a new assessment system using aerial photography and sophisticated mathematics to evaluate properties was rushed into service ahead of schedule for the 2017 tax year.
It was expected the system would identify undervalued properties and unlock new tax revenues for the province.
Instead it generated thousands of inflated property tax bills, and Service New Brunswick managers were then caught making up renovation amounts on some properties to justify some of the larger increases.
More than 18,000 New Brunswick property owners challenged their assessments that year because of the scandal, a mess that took months to untangle.
Currently, New Brunswick property assessments and property tax bills are mailed out in a single notice at the start of March.
Fewer surprises possible
Landowners who feel the bill is too high have 30 days to object and can further appeal if the original objection is rejected. The tax bill itself must be paid by the end of May, whether a challenge is underway or not.
The new plan is to mail an enhanced property assessment notice in October, showing the current value of a property along with details of how the value has changed over several years. Owners who feel their properties are overvalued for taxes can ask for a review in the fall.
That should reduce surprises when tax bills come later in March and end the pileup of complaints that often followed, according to Service New Brunswick's new executive director of property assessment, Lisa Dionne.
"The advantage for the property owners is that they will have time to view the assessment before they have to pay their taxes and internal staff will be better equipped to deal with requests for reviews," said Dionne.