The following is general information about property taxes. It does not replace a lawyer’s advice about a specific legal problem. Everyone’s situation is different, so you may need to get legal help about your situation. Click here to download this information in pdf.
Note: Some of this information is only about property taxes in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Please contact your local municipality for tax information specific to your community.
Information about the Property Valuation Services Corporation and property tax appeals applies across Nova Scotia.
What is property tax?
The city collects property taxes from property owners. Property taxes are one of the most important ways money is raised to pay for things like schools, fire and police departments, streetlights and community centres.
How is property tax collected?
Your municipality will send out a tax bill. For example, in the Halifax Regional Municipality the city sends a tax bill every six months. Payments are due at the end of April and the end of October. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality sends an interim tax bill in April, and a final tax bill in September. Please check with your local municipality for details in your community.
You can generally pay your property taxes in several ways, including: online banking, online credit card payment, in person with a cheque or money order, or as part of your mortgage payment.
How is property tax calculated?
Property taxes are calculated as a percentage of the value of the property. The value of a property or “assessed value” is determined by a not-for-profit organization called the Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC).
Assessments are determined by market value, which varies by community and type of home. Tax rates are set by the city, looking at services provided (e.g.,fire, police, schools, sidewalks, transit), along with mandatory contributions for services such as education and corrections.
Are property tax calculations based on the value of the house or the property (land)?
Property taxes are based on the market value, or the price a willing seller would receive from a willing buyer for the property. Any houses or buildings that are on a property affect its value. For example, a property with a house will usually have greater value than a property with no house.
I disagree with the assessed value of my property. What can I do?
You have the right to appeal your property assessment if you disagree with it. You must appeal within 31 days of receiving your Assessment Notice in the mail or epost.
Assessments are mailed out in January each year. You can appeal your assessment by mailing or faxing an appeal form that explains why you are appealing the assessment to the PVSC. The appeal form is attached to your Assessment Notice, and must be received by the PVSC by the date (deadline) indicated on your Assessment Notice.
Contact PVSC toll free at 1-800-380-7775 or visit their website at www.pvsc.ca/en/home/howassessmentworks/appealinformation/default.aspx for more information about the appeal process.
What happens if I don’t pay my property tax?
If your property taxes are not paid on time, the account will fall behind. This is called being “in arrears”.
If this happens, interest will be charged on the amount you owe. For example, in the Halifax Regional Municipality the interest rate charged for accounts that are in arrears is 15% per year (for example if you owe $1,000, after one year you would owe an additional $150 – a total of $1,150). The interest rate on arrears may differ in other communities across the province, so check with your local municipality.
If property taxes remain unpaid for more than one year, the city has the option of selling the property at a tax sale, or trying to sue on the debt as an alternative to a property tax sale.
What is a tax sale?
Property can be sold at auction if property taxes remain unpaid for more than one year. These tax auctions or sales are open to the public.
The city must try to notify the owner as well as all lien holders about the upcoming tax sale. Notice must be sent by registered letter.
The owner will receive information indicating:
- amount owed
- how much time left to pay
- date of tax sale, and
- estimated extra expenses that could be added.
When it is not possible to notify the owner, the property is posted with a Tax Sale Notice, which is stuck on the door of the property. Properties are sold for the amount of outstanding taxes, interest and expenses owed to the government, which is usually much less than the market value of the property.
Are there programs to help with paying property taxes?
Paying property taxes is an essential part of owning property. Municipalities across Nova Scotia offer some tax relief options, including tax payment deferrals or exemptions for those who have a lower income. Please check with your local municipality to find out what options are available in your community.
The Halifax Regional Municipality offers three tax relief programs that may help prevent property owners from falling behind on their tax bill, or help if you have already fallen behind on payments. The three programs are payment plans, rebates and deferrals. It is possible to combine these programs or use them individually.
PAYMENT PLAN Instead of making two large property tax payments in April and October, smaller payments can be made every month.
PROPERTY TAX REBATE Rebates are available if the combined net income of the adults living at a property is less than $32,000 per year. The rebate amount is calculated based on the combined income of the adults at the property and the amount of tax owed. This program can change from year to year and is tied in with the cost of living (consumer price index).
DEFERRAL OF PROPERTY TAX PAYMENTS Tax payments can be put off (“deferred”) if the combined income of the adults living at a property is less than $32,000 per year. Owners can choose to defer their entire payment, or just a portion of it. A small interest rate is charged to the deferred tax amount. The interest rate on deferrals in 2014-2015 is around 1%. This program can change from year to year and is tied in with the cost of living (consumer price index). The deadline to apply for these programs is March 31 each year, although this deadline is subject to change, so check with HRM. To apply you must provide proof of income based on your Notice of Assessment (received from the Canada Revenue Agency after income taxes are paid) and an application signed by the property owner. Depending on the individual circumstances, you may need to provide supporting documents to assist with the application. The HRM is pleased to assist those interested in these programs to complete their applications over the phone.
Some legal words you need to know
Arrears – money that is owed and should have been paid earlier. The amount accumulated from the date when the first missed payment was due.
Lien holders – someone who has a right or potential claim against someone’s property. The lien holder is usually a bank or another financial firm. For example a person or financial institution has given you money on loan to buy property or has made improvements to the property.
Market value – amount the property would probably sell for on the open market, with buyer and seller making an informed, voluntary deal. All real property is assigned a market value assessment by professional assessors employed by Property Valuation Services Corporation, on behalf of the Province. This value is based on such factors as construction quality, location and age of the property. This value may be adjusted annually to reflect changes that could go up or down in the market value of property in your area.
Notice of Assessment – a notice sent to property owners advising them of the current assessed property value for property (municipal) tax purposes.
Property assessment – the process of establishing a dollar value for property for property tax purposes. Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) – responsible for property assessments in Nova Scotia.
Taxable Assessed Value – the assessment used to determine annual property taxes.
For more information
Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC)
Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC)
Nova Scotia Legal Aid: Prestons Outreach Facilitator
For information about Nova Scotia Legal Aid's outreach in the Preston communities, or to make an appointment, contact:
Preston Outreach on-site facilitator
Email: [email protected]
This information was made possible by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, with support and input from various individuals and organizations.