Do you own or manage a commercial, hotel or multi-family property in the City of Winnipeg? If so, the City Assessor has likely sent you a formal request for income, expense and rent roll information. The Assessor is looking for operating statements ending in 2020, or with year-end dates closest to April 2, 2021. The City Assessor will use the information gathered to create the next general assessment for the 2023/24 taxation years.
The deadline for completing the questionnaires and returning them to the department is Thursday, May 6, 2021.
It is critical for you to complete these forms in full and return them by the requested deadline. Failure to do so may amount to significant penalties under The Municipal Assessment Act.
How does the penalty apply?
Every year, owners have the right to appeal their assessments to the Board of Revision. If the Board reduces the assessment on appeal, that revised assessment will generally carry forward to the second year.
However, if a taxpayer fails to respond to the Assessor’s information request and later successfully appeals the assessment – any reduction to that assessment will be deferred for one year: the owner will be penalized for non-compliance and will have to pay taxes on the inflated assessment. The owner effectively forfeits any tax savings for the year.
We have seen some rather extreme examples in the past several years: properties being over assessed by several million dollars, later reduced on appeal, but the penalty for non-compliance results in the forfeiture of tens of thousands of dollars in tax that would otherwise not have been payable – stressing the importance of completing and returning the information mailer time.
The information mailer has changed this year with the addition of questions related to the impacts of COVID-19 on the owner’s revenue stream. Some of the questions call for an exercise in judgment – i.e. whether the pandemic has had a “minor”, “moderate” or “significant” impact. Other questions include: whether tenants have closed permanently due to public health measures; whether operating expenses have increased in response to COVID-19; and details of any rent deferrals or rent abatements due to the pandemic.
For many commercial property owners, the full impact of the pandemic on their operations will be unknown for some time. If information is not presently available, owners should clarify that in their response. If respondents leave sections blank, the City Assessor will likely flag that omission and later argue non-compliance if owners file an assessment appeal at a later time. The end result may be a substantial penalty and an inflated assessment.
Seek an extension if you cannot meet the deadline.
If you are unable to respond by the deadline of May 6, 2021, you should submit a written request for an extension immediately. The Assessor has been amenable to such extensions in the past.
Owners may make requests for extension to the City Assessment Department via the City’s general email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to reference the property address and specific roll number(s) to which the information request relates.
We would be pleased to assist your organization in responding to the Assessor’s information requests and any other inquiries relating to the realty assessment appeal process in Manitoba. Please contact a member of our Municipal Law team.