Recently, the Province announced important changes to residential property tax assessments for the 2009 property tax year. Ordinarily, all British Columbia property assessments would be based on estimated values as of July 1, 2008. However, for the 2009 tax year only, new provincial legislation will now set assessments at the lower of a July 1, 2007 or July 1, 2008 valuation date.
For the most part, the assessment laws and by-laws of First Nations mirror provincial assessment rules. Because of this change and its timing, in order to be entirely consistent with provincial assessments for the 2009 tax year, First Nations would have to amend their laws or by-laws immediately. As explained below, amendment may not be necessary. It should also be noted that the procedural requirements for amendments mean that at this late date it may simply not be possible to amend and meet the timing requirements to produce assessment notices.
First Nations who have specified a valuation date in their assessment laws/by-laws of July 1 of the year prior to the year of taxation [i.e., July 1, 2008] are still able to use this date. This is because the B.C. Assessment Authority and independent assessors have advised the Commission that they will be able to produce assessment rolls for First Nations having this valuation date. This would mean that for the vast majority of First Nations, assessments can proceed in accordance with their existing laws/by-laws for the 2009 tax year.
For First Nations’ taxpayers the use of a 2008 valuation date does not necessarily mean that property tax bills will rise more than similar properties off reserve for two reasons. First, a preliminary review indicates that it is unlikely that there will be significant variation for most property values between 2007 and 2008. Second, tax bills are determined by multiplying the assessed value and the tax rate. First Nations will take into account current economic conditions when establishing their tax rates.
In some cases, First Nations may determine that they would like to make amendments to their assessment laws or by-laws to adopt the exact provincial practice for the 2009 tax year.
These amendments to assessment laws/by-laws would need to be made now and the Commission should be notified immediately of the First Nation’s intention to proceed with amendments.
First Nations should continue to consult with their assessors and advisors to determine the best approach for their circumstances.For more information regarding this bulletin contact the First Nations Tax Commission at (250) 828-9857.