Check property assessments, urges overtaxed resident

A Whitehorse resident is urging citizens to make sure they get their property assessments checked after learning he's been paying nearly too much in property taxes.

A Whitehorse resident is urging citizens to make sure they get their property assessments checked after learning he’s been paying nearly too much in property taxes.

The Yukon government is assessing property values in incorporated communities this year. These assessments will be used to calculate next year’s taxes. And when the assessor came to Paul Grenier’s Porter Creek home a few weeks ago, he learned his home had been overvalued by $15,900.

The assessor told him that paperwork showed two garages on his property, he said. One of the garages shown was attached to the house, the other separate.

“If there were a 24-by-24 garage on the side of our house, we’d be attached to the neighbour’s house,” he said. There’s only one garage on his property. It was there when he purchased the home. And it’s not attached to the house.

“Obviously, somebody made a mistake,” said Grenier. He moved to his current home in 1998. But he’s never seen the actual property assessment. He doesn’t know how long this error’s been on the paperwork. So he doesn’t know how long he’s been overcharged.

“It’s quite a mess. Who knows how long we’ve been paying taxes for something that isn’t there?”

The assessor told him he won’t be getting any of his money reimbursed, Grenier said.

Municipalities set the tax rates, said Cathrine Morginn, a spokesperson with the Department of Community Services. Citizens need to contact the municipalities they live in about changes they make on their property, she said.

Municipalities use assessments to set property tax rates. The city only receives high-level information about property values and uses this to see what trends there are in specific areas, said Valerie Anderson, Whitehorse’s manager of financial services.

The territorial government must approve all tax adjustments, said Anderson. Once the adjustment is approved, the city will change its tax rate, she said. People should pay their full tax bill, and then the city can give them a credit if an adjustment goes through. But adjustments are only for the current year, said Anderson.

The assessment has been corrected now, said Grenier. He was told to contact the government when he gets his next tax assessment to make sure everything is right.

He’s not too upset – mistakes happen, he said. And with only three assessors working in the entire territory, there’s a lot of work they have to do, he said. But he’s urging others to make sure they get their property assessments checked.

The department encourages this, said Morginn.

Residents can discuss any questions they have about their property assessments with the taxation and assessment branch of community services. If they still have concerns, they can appeal the assessment within 30 days of receiving their November notice. A board hears appeals.

There haven’t been any complaints about how the process is done, said Matt King, a spokesperson for community services. The purpose of assessors’ door-to-door visits is to verify any changes that have happened over time, he said, noting the department cannot speak to specific cases.

Assessors don’t visit every property they’re assessing each year. On years when they assess incorporated communities, they don’t go to every neighbourhood. This year, they’re only going to Porter Creek homes, said Morginn. They’ll be finishing the door-to-door assessments this month.

When asked what he’ll do with the money he’ll be saving in taxes now, Grenier’s answer was simple. “Pay more taxes,” he said.

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