As technology continues to evolve and advance, so does the way we interact with and access information, from social networking, to shopping, to accessing services. Many reading this newsletter will also do so online. More of what we do every day occurs online, with services growing, adapting, and improving all the time.
First Nation administrations and the public sectors are also beginning to deliver more services online. For example, the BC provincial government has made strides in developing their online presence. However, while a number of appeals and mediation services can be initiated online, such as the Civil Resolution Tribunal or Small Claims BC’s Online Dispute Resolution, the provincial government has not yet developed an online assessment appeals process.
Online assessment appeals, both informally and formally, provide the assessor and property owner with the platform to adjust errors and resolve disputes. All levels of appeals, from administrative to judicial, have the potential to flow through an online system. Moving these services online improves accessibility and visibility. Work can be done remotely with both parties having access to a service happening in real time.
Appeal documents, such as assessed values, collected data, support documents, and operating procedures can be filed and viewed online. Property owners are able to see the progress of their appeal, creating a transparent, open, and engaging process. Developments such as tele-conferencing and video-conferencing also improve infrastructure as well as options for housing an assessment appeals process online.
While there are several benefits to an online system, there are important points to consider in the development of online systems. Access can be an issue for remote or rural communities and this can contribute to a potential knowledge gap. Online assessment appeals can also be impersonal and easily disrupted by a misunderstanding, or a technical failing.
There is also a risk in removing the human connection in face to face meetings between assessors and property owners, and at the appeal boards, hearings, and tribunals. Understanding the barriers of moving a system online helps to ensure these risks are mitigated to offer users the best online experience possible.
The issue in anticipating the potential arrival of online assessment appeals is whether the assessment system’s gains exceed what they may lose. Interest in this area is growing and work is ongoing. The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) are undertaking studies and looking to appraisers in jurisdictions using online assessment appeals to collect data on the effectiveness of these systems.
As a part of its research agenda, the First Nations Tax Commission will examine the online assessment appeals process and its potential application for First Nation property tax systems. Ultimately, improving access to dispute resolution mechanisms that follow due process and standards, advances equity between all parties and cultivates stronger working relationships moving forward.