A Saskatoon business owner is taking his tax fight to city council over what he calls a “tax overassessment error.”
Neil Robinson, owner of Garden Architecture in Riversdale, appeared before the city’s standing committee on finance asking for relief on his outstanding taxes from 2021.
Robinson sought out Scharfstein LLP to write a letter to city council to forgive outstanding taxes on three properties of Robinson’s along Avenue A and B.
Robinson says he was handed his 2021 tax bills in January, which had staggering increases of up to 170 per cent compared to what he paid in 2020.
“Why am I giving the city extra money for taxes on their error?” Robinson said to the committee Tuesday.
With 2021 beginning a new four-year calculation for property tax assessments, as mandated by the provincial government, many business owners were shocked at the sharp and sudden increases.
Pressure and numerous complaints from the business community led the city’s board of revision to use a different form of valuation, which brought about more acceptable tax increases for 2022.
Robinson said any business in Riversdale he’s spoken to appealed the tax increases within the 60-day period and had their 2021 taxes rolled back to reflect the changes.
“If we rolled it back and level set it for everybody, it would have balanced out at the end of the day and I would have no problem paying that,” Robinson said.
The problem with Robinson’s request is he missed the 60-day window to appeal. While he just wants the same treatment as his neighbours, the city just wants what it’s owed. The city recently put a tax lien on Garden Architecture for the arrears owing for 2021.
“Because there was no appeal filed, there would be no impact until 2022, which is when the changes to the model was spread out to retail properties in the area,” the city’s director of corporate revenue Mike Voth said.
Robinson paid $16,814 in taxes in 2021 when he owed $34,594, leaving a difference of $17,780. Had the 2022 values been applied, Robinson would have owed $25,375.
Councilor Zach Jeffries wondered what risk the city is leaving itself open to if Robinson’s request is accepted. Would retroactively applying the tax changes to those who didn’t appeal set a precedent?
“It would have a broad impact on the city. And you can expect that other property owners would also be looking for that same consideration. It would bring significant financial risk to the city, for sure,” city solicitor Cindy Yelland said during the meeting.
The committee asked administration to prepare a report on the full impact of applying retroactive property assessment changes when the committee meets again next month.