Guide to Property Assessment in Ontario: Part I
How Current Value Assessments are Determined
Current Value vs. Sale Price
Approaches to Value
Sales Comparison Approach
This Guide provides general information about Ontario’s property assessment and taxation system. While it covers some information about commercial, industrial and special purpose properties, the guide focuses primarily on residential and farm properties. It benefits anyone who wants a basic understanding of property assessment and its relationship to taxation.
It is important to remember the contents of this guide are an interpretation of provincial legislation and regulations. In all cases, the legislation and regulations will prevail. The guide is not intended to provide legal advice.
If you would like more detailed information about property assessment, please contact MPAC.
Part I - Overview of Ontario's Property Assessment System
Overview of Ontario’s property assessment system
This section highlights the foundation, nature and rationale of the property assessment system in Ontario.
The main topics are:
- History of assessment and taxation in Ontario
- The Ontario model of property assessment
History of Assessment and Taxation in Ontario
Various forms of property tax have been used throughout history. In Canada, the early system of taxation was a uniform tax based on the value of property owned. Property in Ontario has been assessed for municipal taxation purposes for more than 200 years. This can be roughly divided into three periods – pre-1970, 1970-1997 and post-1997.
Although property assessment originally came under the jurisdiction of Upper Canada, it was transferred to Ontario municipalities in 1849. Over time, each municipality developed its own assessment system and methods of valuing property. This resulted in inconsistencies in property assessment and the distribution of property taxes. Within a municipality, properties with a similar appearance and value could have very different assessments. There were also very different assessments from municipality to municipality.
In 1963, the Provincial Government appointed the Ontario Committee on Taxation to study taxation and recommend changes. Its report, published in 1967, highlighted many inequities in the assessment system.
1970-1997 – Market Value Assessment Introduced
In response to The Ontario Committee on Taxation Report, the Provincial Government assumed responsibility for property assessment in 1970 to create a uniform assessment system for all Ontario municipalities. The Government introduced market value assessment and the new system was offered to municipal governments on a voluntary basis.
Since the new system was voluntary, not all municipalities implemented market value assessment. As a result, property assessments differed from municipality to municipality. This situation was addressed by the Province with the introduction of the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997. With this Act, substantial amendments were made to the Assessment Act, the Municipal Act and other related legislation. This set the stage for the reshaping of Ontario’s assessment and property tax system in 1998.
Post-1997 – Ontario Fair Assessment System
Under the Ontario Fair Assessment System, property assessments across the province were updated to their current value, using a common valuation date.In addition, on December 31, 1998, responsibility for property assessment was transferred to a new, not-for-profit corporation called the Ontario Property Assessment Corporation, later renamed the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). Every municipality in Ontario is a member of MPAC, which is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors comprised of taxpayer, municipal and provincial representatives.
The Ontario Model of Property Assessment
There are four main components in Ontario’s property assessment and taxation system. Each plays an important role in supporting education and local community services.
- The Provincial Government passes legislation, sets assessment policies and determines education tax rates.
- The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation determines current value assessments and classifications for all properties in Ontario.
- Municipalities determine their revenue requirements, set municipal tax rates and collect property taxes.
- The Assessment Review Board, an independent tribunal, hears assessment appeals.
The assessment and taxation system begins with the legislative framework set by the Government of Ontario. The principal ministry involved in setting assessment legislation is the Ministry of Finance, through the Assessment Act. The Province is also responsible for determining education tax rates as described in Part IV.
In addition to the Assessment Act, MPAC conducts its activities in accordance with the provisions of other acts and regulations, including:
- Assessment Review Board Act
- Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
- Municipal Act, 2001
- Education Act
- Municipal Elections Act, 1996
- Municipal Property Assessment Corporation Act, 1997
- Provincial Land Tax Act, 2006
- Local Roads Boards Act
- Northern Services Boards Act
- Payment-in-Lieu of Taxes Act (federal)
- Municipal Tax Assistance Act
MPAC’s main responsibility is to value and classify all property in Ontario for taxation purposes according to the legislation and regulations set by the Provincial Government.
MPAC also provides information on all properties to Ontario’s municipalities, local taxing authorities and the Minister of Finance (non-municipal territory) on annual assessment rolls. The rolls are used to calculate the property and education taxes owed by each property owner with the exception of locality boards of education within non-municipal territory where the rolls are used to calculate education taxes only. Property taxation and its relationship to property assessment is examined in Part IV – Property Taxation.
In addition to administering Ontario’s property assessment system, MPAC collects information for the purposes of preparing provincial jury lists, school support lists and preliminary lists of electors for municipalities.
Property taxes are the primary source of operating revenue for municipalities and are used to finance local programs and services such as:
- waste and water management;
- parks and leisure facilities;
- police and fire protection;
- social services;
- roads and sidewalks; and
- public transit.
Municipalities set tax rates according to their annual revenue requirements. They are responsible for issuing tax bills, collecting property taxes to support local services and collecting education taxes on behalf of the Provincial Government.
Assessment Review Board (ARB)
The ARB is an independent, adjudicative tribunal of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. The ARB provides property owners with an opportunity to have an independent review of their property classification or assessment. The assessment appeal process is explained in Part III.