Local tax rebate starts with “I don’t care” 

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I doubt the provincial government has the full authority, but if it did, it should be looking at some widespread municipal property tax rebates for 2020.

Wishful thinking perhaps, but let us remember that some auto insurers did the same thing early on this year. If that can happen, pigs CAN fly.

Property taxes for farms have increased at unsustainable levels for most of the past decade. Taxation rates are tied to property assessments conducted by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, and these assessments have been going up and up in lock step with the general real estate boom in Ontario and Canada.

That is probably a bubble, but maybe not.

Property value-driven tax increases represent a tax on a theoretical asset that doesn’t translate into real dollars unless the property is sold. At best it boosts borrowing equity. The tax increase, on the other hand, is paid for in real dollars.

Municipalities have to use these MPAC assessments as a starting point for levying taxes and only have the option of adjusting the assessment rate on different classes of property. And it is also true that a lot of what a municipality collects has to be passed on to the next level of government to pay for some rigid expenses.

Even while understanding this, we need to say: “We don’t care.”

As taxpayers at any level we need to voice this because no one else will. We are not ever going to see a local municipality voluntarily offer some tax relief as a rebate back to its taxpayers, without pressure from somewhere. It just is not done.

This is not aimed at my local politicians. Taxes are too high, but I do not have a specific problem with anyone or anything. I just know how this is all going to go.

The cost of COVID is hammering provincial and federal governments. They have added costs and experienced reduced revenue though the many ways that they collect taxes. So I feel a bit for the juggling act that these levels of government will have to do. A lot of debt financing is in the offing.

Rural municipal governments are a different story. Costs have not increased dramatically from dealing with COVID, but neither have revenues been decimated – because they are heavily weighted toward those fixed rate property taxes.

Farmers and rural residents have seen substantial income reduction in 2020 and yet, the high property taxes arrive without thought. At most, some municipalities have been miring themselves in such important details as how to deal with double-counting issues, and perhaps a higher delinquency rate.

There better not be ANY rural municipal region that has actually found a surplus from COVID times, though I suspect we could easily find one. Such a municipality should be considering a rebate to taxpayers, but that is not going to happen without force.

It needs to be a widespread policy.

Taxpayers have paid some huge increases over the years, and it is time for a little grease back the other way in a time of need and changed circumstances.

Government may protest that it can’t do that, but that is not the fault or responsibility of the taxpayer. Government needs to find a way, even if it involves some debt financing.

Taxpayers need to listen politely to the reasons and the excuses, and then say again: “I don’t care”.

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