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Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
6182 North Street
Halifax, N.S.
B3K 1P5
Canada

Tel.: (902) 429-1811
Toll Free: (800) 567-3033
Fax.: (902) 429-1891

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12 Smythe Street
Saint John, N.B.
E2L 5G5
Canada
Tel.: (506) 634-1811

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109 Richmond Street
Charlottetown, P.E.
C1A 1H7
Canada
Tel.: (902) 368-1811

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St. John's, N.L.
A1C 5M3
Canada
Tel.: (709) 722-1811

4th Floor
111 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON.
M5C 1S2
Tel.: (416) 504-1811

E-Mail: tdp@turnerdrake.com
Internet: www.turnerdrake.com

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# Friday, July 30, 2021

June 28, 2021 marked the twenty-eight year anniversary of my employment at Turner Drake.  Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Originally hired, trained and educated as a commercial appraiser, I’ve spent the majority of my career in our Property Tax Division. True to our in-house training program of the time, I was hired freshly graduated from University; started as a trainee valuer; moved into a Manager’s role six years later, and then, commencing in 2006, became divisional Vice-President, where I lead a team of six. That team assists hundreds of owners every year in mitigating their tax burdens. 

Twenty-eight years in property tax translates into tens of thousands of appeals filed and, over the course of addressing those appeals, some recurring themes have emerged. I’ll discuss them below…and in the process, try to do a little bit of property tax myth-busting.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Assessment

If you own property in Nova Scotia, it’s tempting (and, with the information available online free-of-charge, relatively easy) to compare your assessment to competing properties. For some owners I’ve encountered, logging on to assessment sites and feverishly clicking on surrounding properties has become sport…in some cases, bordering on an obsession.

While comparable assessments are undeniably a useful benchmark, as well as a helpful tool to identify an over-assessment (we do it too!); and while some assessors will even consider assessments on similar properties as grounds for reducing an assessment at the (relatively informal) initial appeal review stage, the fact that your assessment compares unfavourably to others will carry no weight before Nova Scotia’s administrative Tribunals, Boards, and Courts.

Nova Scotia’s Assessment Act requires uniformity of assessment…but legislated uniformity is achieved across entire classes of property in a Municipality (and there are only two such classes of property: residential and commercial). Sadly, ensuring that your property’s assessment is consistent with similar properties does not ensure uniformity.  This is one of the most common misconceptions that we encounter in dealing with property appellants.

And don’t even get me started on New Brunswick, where there is no uniformity or equity provisions in the assessment legislation- none! Comparable assessments have zero evidentiary value. Sad, but true. There are reform moves afoot to address the issue, but given the current glacial pace, I may be another twenty-eight years in before they come to fruition.

The Best Opportunity to Reduce Your Assessment (and Taxes) is NOT on Appeal

In every Province in which we operate, assessing authorities are willing to discuss assessments prior to those values being inserted onto the official assessment rolls. In our experience, such preliminary consultations often produce better results- at lower cost- that waiting to file formal appeals. A number of provinces- Nova Scotia among them- fully embrace the opportunity to discuss proposed values and to make changes, where required, at the “pre-roll” (referred to also as the “advance notification”) stage.

Of course, it’s not always possible to do so, as values may not be available with sufficient lead time in advance of the filing of the roll. But where the opportunity presents itself, my advice is always to be proactive, and to address a problem before it becomes one.  A stitch in time really does save nine.  

(Nova Scotia owners, take note: the opportunity to pre-negotiate your 2022 assessment- the first assessment year when the COVID-19 pandemic will be technically relevant for assessment purposes- will open in mid-to-late September.  Carpe diem).

Not Every Property is Overassessed

There. I’ve said it. 

It’s the truth- not every property offers the opportunity for tax relief. My colleagues and I take many, many calls where we have to break that unwelcome news to owners…sometimes in spite of a double- digit increase, or an assessment that exceeds its neighbours by a considerable margin, or a revenue stream that has tanked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, for every appeal we file, there is probably a second property that was reviewed and its value accepted. 

Assessors- They’re Just Like Us.

They worry about mixing vaccines. They wonder about going gluten-free. They drive their kids to countless sport practices and extracurricular activities. They think about work while they’re walking the dog.  They fret about how they look on Zoom calls. And, for the most part, they’re well educated and professional, and open to reasoned argument. That’s not to say that we don’t take the gloves off from time to time. But professional relationships built on mutual respect with assessors from across the country have allowed for the settlement of hundreds of appeals every year without the need for Board and Court appearances.   


Giselle Kakamousias is the Vice-President of Turner Drake’s Property Tax Division. Her experience negotiating and appealing property assessments is extensive: it is a wise property owner who follows her advice. If you’d like more of it, she can be reached at (902) 429-1811 ext. 333 or gkakamousias@turnerdrake.com 

Friday, July 30, 2021 12:55:41 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
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