Assessment Procedure for Court of Law Appeals / Applications

Goal

To provide information about the process for dealing with assessment matters that involves a court of law rather than the Assessment Review Board (ARB).

Background

A property assessment includes the value, classification and tax status of a property as determined by MPAC.  Most concerns that taxpayers have about their property assessment can be resolved either through a Request for Reconsideration or by Filing an Appeal with the Assessment Review Board (ARB). However, there are some matters that can only be handled by a court of law. 

Sections 40, 44 and 45 of the Assessment Act set out the jurisdiction of the ARB and the issues that it can deal with.

Any person may file an appeal to the ARB if they feel:

  • their current value assessment is too high;
  • they have been wrongly placed on or omitted from the assessment roll;
  • their school support is incorrect;
  • their property classification is incorrect; or
  • if a property has more than one property class, the portion that is attributable to each class is incorrect.

These same issues can also be dealt with through the Request for Reconsideration process. The Request for Reconsideration process may also deal with matters that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ARB and would otherwise be the subject of court applications under section 46 of the Assessment Act.

There are three circumstances under which assessment matters would proceed to a court of law.  They are:

  • an application to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice under section 46 of the Assessment Act for matters that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ARB, if the matter was not resolved through the Request for Reconsideration process, or where the taxpayer chose not to use a Request for Reconsideration;
  • the ARB stating a case in writing for the opinion of Ontario’s Divisional Court upon any question of law (section 43 of the Assessment Act); and
  • seeking leave to appeal to the Divisional Court from an ARB decision on a question of law (section 43.1 of the Assessment Act).

In some instances, the application is made directly to the court, and the court hears the matter.  For example, this is the situation described above for applications to the Superior Court of Justice under section 46 of the Assessment Act

In other instances, a person makes an application for “leave to appeal” to a court of law.  This means that the court first considers whether it should deal with the matter.  If the court denies leave to appeal, then it does not hear the matter.  If the court grants leave to appeal, it has decided to deal with the matter, and will proceed with a hearing.  For example, this is the situation described above when seeking leave to appeal to the Divisional Court from an ARB decision under section 43.1 of the Assessment Act.

Legal issues may proceed as far as the Supreme Court of Canada, but very few assessment appeals have proceeded to that court.  Most legal issues dealing with property assessment are decided at Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court. A few proceed to Ontario’s highest level of court, the Court of Appeal.  Generally, all parties are represented by legal counsel on such matters.

Procedures

Applications to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice Regarding Assessment Matters not Within the Jurisdiction of the Assessment Review Board

If a matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ARB, section 46 of the Assessment Act sets out the appeal route.  A taxpayer, a municipality, or MPAC, may apply to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice regarding any matter that does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Assessment Review Board.

The most common application made directly to this court is when an organization is seeking an exemption from taxes under section 3 of the Assessment Act.

The process generally works like this:

  • An organization that believes it is eligible to be exempt from property taxes contacts MPAC to reconsider its tax status. 
  • MPAC undertakes a thorough review of the organization’s purposes and activities to see if it falls within any of the exemptions listed in section 3 of the Assessment Act
  • Based on previous case law and advice from MPAC’s legal counsel, MPAC may decide that the property qualifies to be exempt from taxes. 
  • In such cases, a settlement can be reached without involving a court of law. 
  • As a result of the settlement, the municipality will change its tax roll, and cancel or refund the property taxes.

However, if MPAC decides that the property does not qualify for an exemption from property taxes, and since the ARB does not have jurisdiction to make a decision about exemptions, the taxpayer must apply to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice.  Generally, legal counsel will represent all parties.

Once the Court makes its decision, the adjustment applies to the tax year in which the application was made, and all future tax years, provided the circumstances concerning the use of the property stay the same.

Any of the parties to the application may make further appeals to the Divisional Court, the Court of Appeal, and ultimately the Supreme Court of Canada.

Stating a Case for the Opinion of the Divisional Court

Sometimes the taxpayer, the municipality and/or MPAC may ask the ARB to seek an opinion from Ontario’s Divisional Court on a question of law.  The legislative reference for these appeals is found in section 43 of the Assessment Act.  Any one of the parties may make an application to the Board.  Usually the Board seeks a consensus amongst the parties on the need for an opinion from the Court and on the wording of the stated case.  If the parties agree and the Board concurs, the Board will state a case in writing to the Divisional Court seeking its opinion.  Generally, all of the parties have legal counsel on these matters.

The Divisional Court will hear the matter and give its decision in writing.  Once the Divisional Court has answered the question of law, the Assessment Review Board will hear the appeal concerning any other matter regarding the assessment.

Application for Leave to Appeal to Divisional Court from an Assessment Review Board Decision, and Appeal to the Divisional Court

After the ARB makes its decision on an assessment appeal, any party to the appeal may apply to Ontario’s Divisional Court for leave to appeal on any question of law that arose during the hearing or in the decision (reference section 43.1 of the Assessment Act).  This application must be made to the court within 30 days of the ARB decision.  Sometimes, the parties to the assessment appeal might also submit a Request for Review of an Assessment Review Board decision to the chair of the board.

A judge of the Divisional Court will hear and decide the leave application.  If leave to appeal is granted, a three-judge panel of the Divisional Court will hear the actual appeal.  Generally, all of the parties have legal counsel for leave applications and appeals.

Related Information

Assessment Act

Note: This procedure has been developed to provide the public with a general understanding of the assessment procedures for Court of Law Appeals/Applications.  The applicable law prevails to the extent there is any conflict between the procedure and the relevant law.

Information on this page may not be fully accessible. Please contact us at 1 866 296-6722 or 1 877 889-6722 TTY to determine how we can best accommodate you.

Note: The applicable law prevails to the extent there is any conflict between this information and the current law. This information is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.