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A judge’s ruling that trailers can’t be assessed as part of campground property is expected to produce tax rebates of about $50 million (Canadian) across Ontario, Canada, for camp operators.
According to the London Free Press, Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice ruled the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) acted unlawfully by assessing trailers as land in the case of Sauble Beach campground Carsons’ Camp Ltd.
The decision, hailed by winning lawyer Peter Fallis of Durham as “bullet-proof” from appeal, is expected to apply to more than 1,000 private campgrounds around Ontario.
They saw their assessments skyrocket in 2003 when MPAC decided to include seasonal trailers on private campgrounds in the calculation of property assessment upon which taxes are based.
The court ordered repayment of the taxes, plus interest, which across Ontario stands at about $50 million, said Murray Lembke of Ayton, chairperson of the RV Action Group.
Lembke’s group was founded to fight the increases. He said about 1,000 private operators would be affected.
In the case of Carsons, taxes jumped by more than 400% from $24,868 in 2002 to $103,994 in 2003.
“All you can tax is the land,” said Fallis of the bottom line on the decision. MPAC had insisted trailers on the land were to be included in property assessments. “The government (MPAC) acted without the power of the legislature,” he said.
Fallis said municipalities such as South Bruce Peninsula, where Sauble Beach is, will have to refund the millions collected based on the inflated illegal assessments.
To find the money for the rebates, Fallis predicted, taxpayers will be required to dip into their pockets.
For his part, Lembke said the decision was a victory for his industry, which has suffered financial hardship. He said unlike municipal, provincial, religious or native campgrounds, private operators were singled out by MPAC for the dramatically higher assessments.
“This was very detrimental to our industry and put us in a very unfair situation. It was not a level playing field,” he said, calling the court’s ruling “a burden off our shoulders.”
In the municipality of Lambton Shores there are 21 campgrounds, with others in Bluewater and South Huron.
Roger Faulkner, who helped lead the industry fight against the government, and who’s also the president of General Coach in Hensall, which sells trailers, said his company lost millions of dollars in sales when the taxation issue came to a head two years ago.