By J. Bradford Nixon
Walker Poole Nixon LLP
Re: February 21, 2013 – First pre-budget consultation held by the new Minister of Finance, Charles Souza.
I appeared in my capacity as President of the Canadian Property Taxpayers Association:
“The Canadian Property Taxpayers Association offers you congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Finance.
The Canadian Property Taxpayers Association has 440 members across Canada, all of whom are professionals in the field of municipal assessment, property tax, whether they be consultants, appraisers, lawyers or paralegals.
We are over 200 members in Ontario, many of whom are employed by large real estate companies, large industrial and commercial concerns, and multi-residential property owners.
The property tax is the second largest source of governmental revenue in Ontario. The property tax expense is the second largest or third largest corporate expense after debt service.
We work directly with MPAC and municipalities appealing or negotiating fair and equitable assessments on behalf of our clients or employers.
The biggest concern we raise with you is the separation of MPAC from any direct supervision and policy management by the Province. Too often tax issues erupt because MPAC changes valuation or classification methodologies or principles without notice or consultation. The resulting uncertainty can be devastating to a taxpayer’s business operation. 2
Prior to 1998, MPAC’s function was performed by the Ministry of Finance and prior to that, the Ministry of Revenue.
Now MPAC is not directly accountable to the Minister and tax problems erupt suddenly which require tax policy intervention by the Minister. We believe the Ministry of Finance has to take a leadership role in consultation with the private sector on workable tax policies.
Let me give you an example which will soon require your decision: the dramatic increase and expansion of assessment of outdoor and indoor signage which has thrown an industry into turmoil, and created unconscionable tax burdens on some properties.
There are many others.
We urge you to take control and make MPAC accountable, and use your authority to provide tax policy solutions to the assessment problems. We urge the provincial Ministry of Finance to assume an activist role in developing tax policy solutions – working with all the stakeholders, MPAC, municipalities, and taxpayers. The field cannot be abandoned to only three of the four players. The Ministry has a critical role to play.
Thank you for your time; thank you for listening and we wish you well.”