Changes to Assessment and Taxation Deadlines in the MGA, MRAT 2018 and MRAC 2018 to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Carol Zukiwski and Michael Swanberg

On March 31, 2020, the Minister of Municipal Affairs issued Ministerial Order No. 022/20 (the “Previous Ministerial Order”), which suspended and altered various timelines and deadlines under the Municipal Government Act (“MGA”) and its regulations (including the Matters Relating to Assessment and Taxation Regulation, 2018 (“MRAT 2018”) and the Matters Relating to Assessment Complaints Regulation, 2018 (“MRAC 2018”). That Ministerial Order revised a number of deadlines that impacted municipal property taxation and assessment, as summarized in our previous memo to the Alberta Assessors Association dated April 7, 2020.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs received a significant amount of feedback following the release of Ministerial Order No. 022/20, and on April 17, 2020, Ministerial Order No. 014/20 was released (the “New Ministerial Order”), which replaces the previous ministerial order, and further amends deadlines and timelines related to municipal property taxation and assessment. The following is a high-level overview of the New Ministerial Order and how it affects deadlines and timelines that relate to municipal property taxation and assessment. Our previous memo dated April 7, 2020 is no longer accurate and should only be referenced to determine if the “transitional provision” applies (discussed below), since the New Ministerial Order replaces and is substantively different from the previous Ministerial Order.

A. Transitional Provision

Note that most of the deadlines that were previously extended by the Previous Ministerial Order are no longer extended under the New Ministerial Order, which means that the “normal” deadlines in the legislation would apply. In some cases, deadlines and timeframes that were extended to October 1, 2020 under the Previous Ministerial Order have been shortened to deadlines that are earlier than October 1, 2020, but later than the “normal” deadlines in the legislation, in the New Ministerial Order.

Since the New Ministerial Order shortens most of the deadlines that were specified in the Previous Ministerial Order, a “transitional provision” has been included to account for situations where a deadline was extended to October 1, 2020 under the Previous Ministerial Order, but the New Ministerial Order sets a shorter deadline that expired between March 25, 2020 and April 17, 2020. The transitional provision is as follows:

Anything that, under normal timelines pursuant to Parts 9, 10, 11, 12 of the Municipal Government Act and its associated regulations, would have been required to be done between the period of March 25, 2020 and the date this Order is signed [April 17, 2020], which as a result of Ministerial Order MSD 022/20 was not done, and which is not otherwise addressed in this Order, must be completed no later than May 31, 2020.

Accordingly, if the legislation indicates that a deadline or timeframe would have expired between March 25, 2020 and April 17, 2020, municipalities will need to refer to the Previous Ministerial Order to determine if that deadline or timeframe was extended to October 1, 2020. If so, then the transitional provision will operate to either extend that deadline to May 31, 2020 (if the New Ministerial Order does not otherwise set a new deadline), or extend that deadline to the deadline expressly prescribed in the New Ministerial Order. The New Ministerial Order does not extend any deadline which expired before March 25, 2020. The following examples illustrate how the transitional provision applies in different situations:

  • Example #1: The Previous Ministerial Order extended a deadline to October 1, 2020, but the New Ministerial Order does not mention that deadline at all.

The Previous Ministerial Order indicated that the deadline for a municipality to notify the Minister of amended property tax bylaws (section 354(6)) was extended to October 1, 2020, instead of within 30 days of being passed by council. The New Ministerial Order no longer extends this deadline at all, so the usual 30-day deadline would apply. Therefore, if a council passed an amended property tax bylaw on March 4, 2020, its deadline to notify the Minister would have expired on April 3, 2020. It is possible that the municipality decided to not notify the Minister by April 3, 2020 because the Previous Ministerial Order extended that deadline to October 1, 2020. Since that deadline falls between March 25, 2020 and April 17, 2020, and the deadline is not otherwise addressed in the New Ministerial Order, the municipality now has until May 31, 2020 to notify the Minister under the transitional provision.

  • Example #2: The New Ministerial Order prescribes a shorter deadline than the Previous Ministerial Order.

As discussed in more detail below, the deadline for an assessed person to respond to a Request for Information under section 295(4) of the MGA is ordinarily 60 days. If a Request for Information (“RFI”) was sent out on March 31, 2020, the assessed person’s deadline to respond would have been extended to October 1, 2020 under the Previous Ministerial Order. This section has been expressly addressed in the New Ministerial Order, the assessed person’s deadline to respond to the RFI sent on March 31st is July 1, 2020.

  • Example #3: The deadline expired before March 25, 2020.

Using section 295(4) as an example, if a Request for Information was sent to an assessed person on January 15, 2020, the deadline to respond would have ordinarily expired 60 days later in mid March, 2020. That deadline is not extended by the New Ministerial Order since it expired before March 25, 2020.

B. Changes to Specific Deadlines and Timelines

a. MGA section 284(4) – Deadline for Filing a Complaint

The complaint deadline means 60 days after the notice of assessment date set under sections 308.1 or 324(2)(a.1).

The New Ministerial Order revises this deadline as follows:

The complaint deadline pursuant to Section 284(4) of the Municipal Government Act, for an assessment notice with a notice of assessment date that falls on or after January 31, 2020 is extended to July 1, 2020 or 60 days from the notice of assessment date, whichever time is later.

Therefore, if a particular Notice of Assessment Date falls on or after January 31, 2020, the deadline to file a complaint will be automatically extended to July 1, 2020, unless the Notice of Assessment Date falls within 60 days before July 1, 2020, in which case the usual 60-day deadline would apply.

If the Notice of Assessment Date falls before January 31, 2020, then the complaint deadline is not extended to July 1, 2020 (and would have therefore expired 60 days after the Notice of Assessment date).

While there is no express requirement to inform assessed persons about this further change to the complaint deadline, we recommend that municipalities take steps to inform assessed persons of this by, for example, providing information in the local newspaper or on the municipality’s website.

b. MGA sections 412 and 436.03 – Deadline for Municipalities to Prepare and Send the Tax Arrears List

Municipalities must, not later than March 31, prepare a tax arrears list and send two copies to the Registrar and a copy to the Minister responsible for the Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act, and post a copy of the tax arrears list in a place that is accessible to the public during regular business hours.

The New Ministerial Order revises this deadline to be “not later than June 30, 2020.”

Therefore, the New Ministerial Order allows municipalities to prepare its tax arrears list and send two copies to the Registrar and the Minister responsible for the Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act by June 30, 2020, instead of March 31. This same revised deadline applies to municipalities preparing the tax arrears list for designated manufactured homes under section 436.03 of the MGA – that deadline is also extended to June 30, 2020.

c. MGA section 417 – Deadline for the Registrar to send a Notice of Tax Arrears to Specified Parties

mark>Not later than the August 1 following receipt of a copy of the tax arrears list, the Registrar must, in respect of each parcel of land shown on the tax arrears list, send a notice to the owner of the parcel of land, any person who has an interest in the parcel that is evidenced by a caveat registered by the Registrar, and each encumbrance shown on the certificate of title for the parcel.

The New Ministerial Order extends the deadline highlighted above to October 1, 2020. Therefore, the Registrar of the Land Titles Office must send the required notices to the parties specified under section 417 the MGA by October 1, 2020, instead of August 1, 2020.

The notices that are sent out this year respecting the tax arrears list prepared in 2020, as described above, must continue to show that the arrears be paid before March 31, 2021 before the auction process can be commenced. That deadline is not affected by the New Ministerial Order.

d. MGA section 436.08 – Deadline for Municipalities to send a written notice to the owner of a designated manufactured home regarding tax arrears

mark>Not later than August 1 following preparation of the tax arrears list, the municipality must send a written notice to the owner of the designated manufactured home, the owner of the manufactured home community where the designated manufactured home is located, and each person who has a security interest in or a lien, writ, charge or other encumbrance against the designated manufactured home as disclosed by a search of the Registry using the serial number of the designated manufactured home.

The New Ministerial Order extends the deadline highlighted above to October 1, 2020. Therefore, the municipality must send the required written notice to the specified parties by October 1, 2020, instead of August 1, 2020.

The New Ministerial Order does not affect the deadline by which taxpayers must pay the tax arrears before a tax sale can be commenced – therefore, the notices sent under section 417 must continue to specify a deadline of March 31, 2021 for taxpayers to pay the specified tax arrears before the municipalities can commence the auction process.

e. MGA section 418(2) – Period in Which a Public Auction Must be Held

Each municipality must offer for sale at a public auction any parcel of land shown on its tax arrears list if the tax arrears are not paid. The public auction must be held in the period beginning on the date referred to in section 417(2)(a) and ending March 31 of the year immediately following that date, unless the taxpayer and municipality have entered into an agreement under subsection (4).

The New Ministerial Order impacts tax sales that were to be held between March 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020. For those tax sales, the deadline by which the tax sale must be completed has been extended to October 1, 2020.

f. MGA section 295(4) – Deadline for Taxpayers to Respond to a Request for Information

No person may make a complaint in the year following the assessment year under section 460 or, in the case of designated industrial property, under section 492(1) about an assessment if the person has failed to provide any information requested under subsection (1) within 60 days from the date of the request.

Typically, assessed persons are required to respond to Requests for Information within 60 days of the date of the request. The New Ministerial Order extends the deadline highlighted above to July 1, 2020, or within 60 days from the date of the request, whichever time is later.

Any RFI deadlines which expired before March 25, 2020 are not extended by this New Ministerial Order. Otherwise, RFI deadlines which were set to expire on or after March 25, 2020 are now extended to July 1, 2020. The following examples illustrate how the New Ministerial Order impacts RFI deadlines:

  • Example #1: An RFI was sent to an assessed person on January 15, 2020, the deadline to respond would have expired in mid-March, 2020. That deadline is not extended by the New Ministerial Order.
  • Example #2: An RFI was sent out on March 31, 2020, the assessed person’s deadline to respond would have been the end of May, 2020. That deadline had previously been extended to October 1, 2020 under the Previous Ministerial Order. This section has been expressly addressed in the New Ministerial Order, the assessed person’s deadline to respond to the RFI sent on March 31, 2020 is July 1, 2020.

g. MRAT 2018 sections 34 and 35 – Deadline for assessors to provide information requested by assessed persons under sections 299, 299.1, 300 and 300.1

Section 34(2): The municipality or provincial assessor must provide the summary of a property assessment to the assessed person within 15 days of receiving the request under section 299 or 299.1 of the MGA.

Section 34(4): If a municipality or the provincial assessor does not provide the prescribed information in a manner set out in subsection (1), the municipality or provincial assessor must make reasonable arrangements to let the assessed person see the information at the municipality’s or provincial assessor’s office within 15 days of the request.

Section 35(2): The municipality or the provincial assessor must provide the prescribed information to the assessed person within 15 days of receiving the request under section 300 or 300.1 of the Act, as the case may be.

Section 35(4): If a municipality or provincial assessor does not provide a summary of the assessment for an assessed property in the correct manner, the municipality or provincial assessor must make reasonable arrangements to let the assessed person see the summary at the municipality’s or provincial assessor’s office within 15 days of the request.

Sections 299/299.1/300/300.1 of the MGA allow assessed persons to request certain information about the assessment of their properties (299/299.1) and about other properties (300/300.1). Requests regarding designated industrial property are made to the Provincial Assessor, while other requests are made to the municipality where the property is located. The deadline for municipalities or the Provincial Assessor to respond to these requests has been extended to July 1, 2020, unless the request is received within 15 days before July 1, 2020, in which case the usual 15-day deadline would apply.

If it is not possible to provide the requested information, then the deadline for the municipality or the Provincial Assessor to allow the assessed person to view information at the municipality’s / Provincial Assessor’s office (section 34(4)) is similarly extended to July 1, 2020, unless the request is received within 15 days before July 1, 2020, in which case the usual 15-day deadline would apply.

This will not affect deadlines which expired before March 25, 2020. If the deadline to respond to a section 299/299.1/300/300.1 request expired before that date, then that deadline is not extended. Otherwise, this section will affect any deadlines to respond that were to expire on or after March 25, 2020 to extend those deadlines to July 1, 2020.

h. MGA section 364.3 – Deadline for property owners to apply for judicial review of decisions regarding property tax incentives

Where a decision made under a bylaw under section 364.2 in respect of an exemption or deferral is the subject of an application for judicial review, the application must be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench and served not more than 60 days after the date of the decision.

Section 364.2 is a new section which was added to the MGA in 2019 which allows municipalities to pass bylaws which provide property tax relief for certain sectors, provided properties meet certain eligibility requirements specified in the bylaw. Section 364.3 provides a right for taxpayers to apply for judicial review of decisions made under property tax incentive bylaws with respect to the eligibility of specific properties to receive tax incentives.

The New Ministerial Order extends the deadline for taxpayers to file for judicial review to October 1, 2020, unless the decision to deny an application for the property tax incentive is rendered within 60 days before October 1, 2020, in which case the normal 60-day deadline would apply.

The New Ministerial Order does not extend any deadline under section 364.3 which expired before March 25, 2020.

i. MRAT 2018 section 36(3) – Deadline for an Assessed Person to File for a Compliance Review

A request for a compliance review must be made within 45 days of the assessed person’s request under section 299 or 300 of the Act.

If the assessed person believes that a municipality has failed to adequately respond to requests for information made under sections 299/300 of the MGA, the assessed person may file a request for the Minister to conduct a compliance review of the response prepared by the municipality. The deadline for the assessed person to file this request is now extended to July 1, 2020, unless the assessed person’s request is filed within 45 days before July 1, 2020, in which case the usual 45 day deadline would apply.

The New Ministerial Order does not extend any deadline under section 36(3) of MRAT 2018 which expired before March 25, 2020. Therefore, if the deadline to file for a compliance review expired before that date, then the deadline is not extended under the New Ministerial Order. Otherwise, if the deadline was set to expire on or after March 25, 2020, then the new deadline of July 1, 2020 would apply.

The above is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this post to be outdated.