The announcement that the B.C. government will freeze 2009 property tax assessments at their July 2007 level appears like a good move to forestall a rush of complaints to the BC Assessment Authority, but there are necessarily enough exceptions to drive a truck through. The freeze, at least for now, is to be in place for one year, according to a spokesperson for the BC Assessment Authority.
As the Authority explains it, if the assessment would have been based on July 2008 values - shortly after the average peak in real estate prices - "many property owners would have received an assessment notice in January 2009 showing a value that would be higher than the market value of the property." While the comment may not inspire confidence, it is reality. We expect B.C. average house prices to continue to track lower well into 2009. However, such a blanket freeze will require some exceptions. New homes built on what were building lots, for example, substantial renovations that add value to a property, and fires and other accidents that damage or destroy property will all have to be accounted for in setting the 2008 assessments.
A spokesman for the Assessment Authority, when asked how exceptions would be made, said that they track building permits on major renovations and new home construction, but also depend on individuals to report changes that may affect assessed value. Like many - including municipal tax officials - the Assessment office appeared confused about some details of the freeze. "We will have to wait for full details during the fall session of the legislature," the spokesman said. That session begins November 20. Watch the BC Assessment website (www.bcassessment.ca) for updates