Q. Can I reduce my property taxes?
A. Yes, probably.

Q. How much can I save?
A. Generally speaking, not a lot.

Q. Is it worth the effort?
A. Probably not.

So why am I writing about this?

Because, I have been asked about it a number of times recently.

A friend of mine applied for a reassessment for a West Vancouver property a few years ago. The Assessment Authority ruled in her favour but she tells me that it really wasn’t worth the effort for the small subsequent reduction in property tax.

And then, the assessed value went back up in the following year and she would have to apply all over again for a new adjustment in that year.

Also, while it may not be so important, if you want to sell the property, a potential buyer can see the new ‘reduced’ value, as this is information available to anyone who cares to access it. (Traditionally, the assessed value of a property has lagged behind the resale value by a factor of 15% or so.)

That’s it, but…. If you want more info, please read on….

The following is taken from the BC Assessment Authority’s website:

“The BC Assessment Authority is a provincial Crown corporation that produces independent, uniform and efficient property assessments on an annual basis for all property owners in the province. Assessors determine the market value of land and improvements and enter those values on the Assessment Roll.”

Last year’s Assessment Roll was unique because special legislation enabled BC Assessment to ‘freeze’ 2009 property values at either the July 1, 2007 or July 1, 2008 valuation date, whichever was lower.

This allowed BC Assessment to take into consideration the economic downturn in 2008 and resulted in a significant reduction in 2009 property reassessment appeals.

However, if you wish to seek an adjustment, perhaps not now, but at some time in the future, here’s what you need to do:

Check to see if you may have been over-assessed. Take a look at your assessment report. Check all the facts in the description of your home.

Note the date of the assessment. The value will be generally be related to your home’s ‘potential’ selling price, based on sales information from that particular assessment date.

If you live in a home that’s unique, or in an area of unique homes, you have a better chance of being successful with an appeal. If the homes are all the same in your block, then it will generally be more difficult.

Any recent, significant changes in the neighbourhood can have potential affects, either positive (an attractive new school), or negative, (an unsightly cell phone mast or commercial building).

You can find out what homes in your area sold for on or about the assessment date by contacting your local municipality, the BC Assessment Authority, or your realtor.

See if you can find comparable local homes that sold around your assessment date for less than your home’s assessed value.

But, be aware that you’ll need to show a minimum 5% difference between your assessed price and the selling price on three comparable houses to have a good chance of succeeding.

Some things are debatable and come down to a difference of opinion.

For instance, is a swimming pool a positive or a negative? Some will say they would love a pool; but many former pool owners will tell you, never again. The maintenance and heating costs are simply too high for the limited use you will get from having a pool in BC.

You’ll need to pick homes that are close in size to yours, and you may need to hire an appraiser, if you go for a formal appeal.

Are you turned off the idea already? Especially since you have to do all the work yourself?

The good news though is that very few homeowners challenge their assessments, and you have a very real chance of succeeding, notwithstanding the above.

One of the main reasons is that the Assessment Authority has ‘no axe to grind’ here. They do not set your taxes and deal at arms length with the municipalities who do so.

My thoughts…. If, you have a genuine, compelling reason to challenge your assessment; a serious error in your property’s description, or some other evidence, such as your neighbours telling you their values are much less than yours, then, by all means make the application.

Here’s the contact info for the BC Assessment Authority. And, be aware, that you have a limited time to appeal after receiving your annual assessment. The info is contained in your assessment letter.

BC Assessment Authority, #200 – 1818 Cornwall Ave., Vancouver BC  V6J 1C7
Phone: (604) 739-8588. www.bcassessment.bc.ca

(Copyright Dara Fahy. All rights reserved.)