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The concept of property taxes has existed in various forms since the beginning of human civilization. In 4th century BC, Athens levied taxes on land, houses, cattle, furniture and money. Tax exemptions for temples and tombs were issues the Egyptians dealt with around 2400 BC. The Roman Empire relied heavily on land taxes and over the centuries experimented with many refinements to their tax system. In Canada, First Nations distributed wealth by sharing, gift giving and through potlatches. In non-native terminology, these could be classified as forms of taxation.

1860 – 1973

1973 – Present Day

To learn more about BC Assessment’s history, select the link below to access the Corporate History document.

1860 - 1973

Our modern system of property taxation has roots in England in the Middle Ages. William the Conqueror completed an inventory of the nation's wealth, including farm animals. This was used to provide a basis for a tax and wealth, and was England's first complete assessment roll.

In 1860, British Columbia and Vancouver Island were still separate colonies; New Westminster was established by proclamation as the first city in the Colony of British Columbia. At the same time, the Real Estate Act was passed in the Colony of Vancouver Island, levying an annual tax of one per cent on the market value of real estate. Assessors were appointed to perform the assessment function.

Originally, the duties of assessors required minimal on-site or mass appraisal expertise. Instead, assessors established actual market values based on property owners’ estimates to compile the assessment rolls.

Over time, each city created separate organizations using individual assessment criteria.  As a result, due to the lack of standard valuation methods, assessments were frequently challenged and often difficult to defend. By 1973, with 140 independent assessment organizations in British Columbia, the situation had grown into a serious provincial crisis. Alarmed with the rising incidence of serious equity grievances, and pressured by property owners and the public sectors, government was compelled to take action and implement new and improved systems.

1973 - Present Day

By the end of 1973, the British Columbia government struck an all-party Special Legislative Committee on Assessment to explore remedies and to propose recommendations to the annual assessment process. In 1974, the all-party committee unanimously recommended to the Provincial Cabinet that legislation be passed to create a completely independent assessment authority. Their report stated, "This Authority must be independent of taxing functions (either municipal or provincial) and its control must be such as will result unmistakably in complete independence."

On July 2, 1974, the Assessment Authority Act received Royal Assent. The passing of this Act and its companion, the Assessment Act, reconciled almost 100 years of inequities, commissions, and official government reports into British Columbia's property assessment and valuation process.

The Assessment Authority Act granted government the power to create a province-wide assessment authority. Six months later, the British Columbia Assessment Authority had produced the province's first impartial and independent assessment rolls and notices. Major problems that existed before the Authority's establishment have been fully resolved and issues such as efficiency, professionalism, impartiality and uniformity, have vastly improved.

 Historical Documents

  Evolution of Real Property Taxation in BC
  1992 Real Property Taxation
  1992 Real Property Taxation Three Alternative Systems
  Our History: 41-Years of Service to British Columbia