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IMA Ethics
 

CODE OF ETHICS
AND
PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS

(Ratified June 24, 2014)



 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.0      Facts about the IMA

2.0     Objects of the Institute

3.0      IMA Code of Ethics

3.1     Introduction
3.2     Inspiring Ethical Conduct
3.3     Encouraging Respect    
3.4     Two Key Tenets of the IMA Code
3.5     Guidelines for Ethical Professional Practice

4.0       IMA Professional Standards

4.1       Introduction
4.2       Requirement for Professional Standards
4.3       Achieving and Maintaining the Professional Standards
4.4       Reference to other Professional Standards
4.5       Requirement to be Impartial and Unbiased
4.6       Requirement to be Transparent 
4.7       Requirement to be Truthful
4.8       Compliance with Current Legislation  
4.9       Application of Appropriate Valuation Methods   
4.10     Reporting and Disclosure
4.11     Provision of Expert Testimony
4.12     Enforcement of the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards

5.0     Code of Ethics and Professional Standards Declaration

5.1     Declaration for New Membership
5.2     Declaration for Renewal of Membership

           Approval

Appendix A: Justice Goudge's Rules 

 

1.0  Facts about the Institute of Municipal Assessors

The Institute of Municipal Assessors (IMA) is the largest Canadian professional association representing members practising in the field of property assessment and related property taxation functions.

The IMA was incorporated under the laws of Ontario by letters patent dated May 27, 1957 and amended by legislation in 1987 and 1993.

In 1987, the Institute of Municipal Assessors Act, empowered the IMA to carry out the objects of the Institute and the government, and granted the exclusive right to use its designation "Member Institute of Municipal Assessors" and the abbreviation thereof, "MIMA" The Act also allows other variations of its designations as follows:

Every registered member of the Institute who has satisfied the criteria for a category of membership as set out in the by-laws of the Institute may use the designation "Member Institute of Municipal Assessors," "Associate Member Institute of Municipal Assessors," "Honorary Member Institute of Municipal Assessors," "Life Member Institute of Municipal Assessors" or "Fellow of the Institute of Municipal Assessors," as the case may be, and may use after the member's name the initials "M.I.M.A.," "A.I.M.A.," "M.I.M.A. (Hon.)," "M.I.M.A. (Life)" or "F.I.M.A.," respectively

The IMA has the power under the Act to establish bylaws that govern the professional practice of its members as well as to discipline members who act in a manner inconsistent with this Code of Ethics and Professional Standards.

2.0       Objects of the Institute

The objects of the Institute are:

  1. To strive for, establish, and maintain standards of competence in real property valuation, primarily in municipal assessment;
  2. To foster and support intellectual interchange in matters of real property valuation and assessment by collecting, publishing, and distributing papers and articles and by holding conferences and seminars;
  3. To encourage and support scholarship by establishing, maintaining and conducting programs of instruction in real property valuation and municipal assessment and to provide formal training and educational facilities;
  4. To establish funds, scholarships, bursaries, and grants in aid for support or recognition of scholars, students, teachers, educational institutions, and other persons and organizations engaged in real property valuation and municipal assessment and to provide for the administration, management and investment of money held for such purposes;
  5. To establish standards of competency and to hold examinations and prescribe tests for admission to membership and provide for the classification of membership in the Institute and levels of accreditation related to competence and experience;
  6. To enter into agreements and cooperate with other institutions with similar objectives; and
  7. To maintain discipline among members and students and to impose sanctions, including the withdrawal of or suspension from accreditation in the Institute.

Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing objectives, the IMA has enacted a Code of Ethics and Professional Standards that governs the activities of its members.

The purpose of the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards is to provide guidance to practitioners valuing property as a basis for local property taxation and, in particular:

  1. To value properties accurately and equitably according to the governing laws of the assessment jurisdiction;
  2. To promote and maintain a high level of trust in the opinion of value of property for property assessment purposes by a designated member of the IMA;
  3. To objectively conduct and communicate analysis, findings, opinions, and conclusions of value in a manner that is transparent to the public.

3.0       IMA Code of Ethics

3.1       Introduction

The IMA has adopted a Code of Ethics (the "IMA Code") to inspire and encourage IMA members (the "Members") to perform their professional duties in a responsible manner. The IMA Code serves as a guide to appropriate conduct in the provision of professional services, and the interaction by Members with peers, colleagues, clients and customers.

The IMA Code is intended to be a practical guide to professional conduct. As such, the IMA Code reflects the nature of work performed in the fields of municipal assessment and property taxation, including market analysis and financial valuation.

The IMA Code is intended to be universally applicable to all Members who have been trained in a wide range of disciplines, and work in different fields. Accordingly, the IMA Code has been drafted to supplement rather than supplant the ethical codes or standards that apply to Members across: (i) the spectrum of professional disciplines in which they have been trained; (ii) the public and private organizations in which they work; and (iii) the duties they may discharge through their paid employment and volunteer services.

Finally, the IMA Code seeks to build upon personal ethical standards and practices that are applied by Members in other aspects of their lives. The IMA Code is intended to have equal meaning and relevance to all Members, regardless of personal background and beliefs.

3.2       Inspiring Ethical Conduct

The IMA Code does not prescribe specific actions that must be pursued or avoided. Instead, the IMA Code is intended to encourage each Member to make informed choices that will benefit themselves, other Members, and all those who work with or rely upon the professional services of Members.

The IMA Code provides guidance with respect to actions and behaviours that represent ethically responsible choices. Accordingly, the IMA Code offers building blocks for ethical professional conduct, without defining the necessary conclusions that one must draw in every, or any, circumstance.

3.3       Encouraging Respect

By ensuring that the professional activities of each Member is informed by the IMA Code, all Members should enjoy the continuous respect of peers, clients, and the general public. This goal is paramount, and will ensure that Members benefit from their association in a network of like-minded professionals.

A further benefit that will accrue to all Members from their conscientious efforts to support the IMA Code is the satisfaction of knowing that each Member is contributing to a positive professional environment in every organization in which they work. The extension of professional ethics into the workplace in a manner that fosters professional pride and satisfaction is a worthwhile objective to be pursued by all Members.

3.4       Two Key Tenets of the IMA Code

3.4.1    Collective Consequences

The IMA Code is built on the principle that in a professional association, individual actions by one member will have collective consequences for all members. Members have a duty, therefore, to consider the broad brush that will reflect favourably or poorly on all Members as a result of the actions of each individual. Accordingly, one foundation of the IMA Code is the belief that goodwill and respect that is earned by one Member will have a general benefit for all Members. Conversely, professional behaviour by one Member that is regarded with distain or mistrust by others will discredit, to some extent, all Members.

It is necessary, therefore, to establish and maintain a minimum level of technical competence for Members, and in particular for Members who have attained the MIMA and AIMA designations.

A key tenet of the IMA Code is that all Members are expected to possess a common set of skills, and be capable of performing certain types of work, in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment. Differences will exist between Members due to several factors, including education, training and experience, however, all designated Members will be understood to possess a high degree of technical equivalence.

3.4.2    Public Consequences

A further tenet of the IMA Code is that individual actions will have public consequences. Accordingly, each Member is expected to adhere to a minimum standard of professional discipline to ensure that Members are perceived as worthy of holding the public's trust and confidence.

Conduct and discipline serve different, but complementary purposes. Whereas conduct is about the manner in which Members can expect to be treated by their peers, and must treat others with whom they work or serve, discipline involves adherence to professional standards.

The IMA prescribes guidelines for professional standards that are applicable to work in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment. Members are required to adopt those standards in the provision of all relevant professional services.

While the application of professional standards is not a guarantee of good performance or results, there is at least a reduction of the level of risk faced by clients and the public that are served by Members. Accordingly, an important foundation of the IMA Code is the belief that all Members are expected to exercise technical proficiency, and to perform their services in a manner that will enhance the public's respect for the IMA and the work performed by its Members.

3.5       Guidelines for Ethical Professional Practice

Members must at all times be aware of the following circumstances that require appropriate ethical conduct, and make conscious choices to impart the following guidelines in their professional activities.

  • Members provide services that require access to, and use of taxpayer data (individual and corporate). To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members must always treat taxpayer data as private and confidential when it pertains to information that is not readily available in the public domain.
  • Members compile and tabulate data that influence municipal, corporate and personal finances. To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members must always treat financial data and their analysis of the data, in a manner that is objective and free of real or perceived conflicts of interest.
  • Members perform duties and make decisions that impact personal, corporate and government finances and taxation. To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members must safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of information obtained for the purpose of municipal assessment and property taxation.
  • Members are relied upon to conduct technical work involving the application of quantitative and qualitative methods of research and analysis. To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members must conduct analysis, interpretation and reporting of their work in a manner that is both transparent and understandable.
  • Members may be required to represent opposing interests in disputes regarding property valuation. To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members must ensure that their services are unbiased and impartial.
  • Members have a common interest in advancing public support for their profession. To maintain public trust and confidence in the IMA, Members should be willing to provide advice and support to other Members, and treat all Members as colleagues rather than competitors.

4.0       IMA Professional Standards

4.1       Introduction

Membership in the IMA is a privilege granted to individuals who possess appropriate knowledge and professional experience in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment. Membership is renewable annually for Members who remain in good standing with the IMA.

One of the conditions for admission to the membership of the IMA, and continuation as a member in good standing, is compliance with the IMA's Professional Standards, as adopted and updated from time to time by the IMA.

4.2       Requirement for Professional Standards

The IMA requires that all individuals who seek, or have attained, the MIMA and AIMA designations, achieve and maintain a consistent minimum level of knowledge and skill in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment (the "Professional Standards"). The Professional Standards represent a threshold of technical skill and expertise that is measurable and can be validated through testing.

Transparency of the Professional Standards, and the requirement for Members to comply with those standards, provides assurance to employers, clients and the public, that Members possess a prescribed level of specialized knowledge and skill regardless of their education, training, experience, or employment.

Furthermore, universal adherence to the Professional Standards by all Members enhances the confidence and trust of public officials, courts and tribunals in the empirical and analytical work performed by Members, and reinforces the credibility of Members as subject-matter experts in real property valuation and municipal assessment. Accordingly, Members share a common interest in achieving and maintaining the required minimum level of technical proficiency and professional conduct that is expressed through the Professional Standards.

4.3       Achieving and Maintaining the Professional Standards

The IMA has determined that Members who hold the MIMA and AIMA designations are required to possess a minimum level of knowledge and skill.

The Professional Standards are refreshed over time to ensure that Members have a proven understanding of relevant theories, and a proven ability to perform quantitative and qualitative analyses, at a level of competence that is expected of real property valuation experts and municipal assessors.

The Professional Standards build upon knowledge and skills that are learned and acquired by many means. Therefore, the Professional Standards do not necessarily require a specific academic or professional background. Membership in the IMA, however, is not a substitute for academic education and professional training. The compulsory courses required for accreditation in the IMA, and continuing education through the IMA, supplement prior education and training with a focus on specialized application to real property valuation and municipal assessment.

The Professional Standards must be sustained over time. It is a duty of Members to maintain and upgrade the requisite skills through accredited professional experience and attendance at courses offered by the IMA, or equivalent sources of supplemental education and experience.

Courses that will be offered by the IMA, or through other channels that are approved by the IMA, deal with professional ethics, professional standards, and quantitative and qualitative methods of research, analysis and reporting, that are required to practice in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment. Those courses or their approved equivalents will form an integral part of the duty of Members to maintain the currency and relevance of their expertise, and their ability to apply that expertise in the range of professions that comprise the membership body of the IMA.

Continuing education courses or their equivalents that are approved by the IMA will provide Members with a means to refresh or expand their core competencies, and to be informed of related and emerging issues that are relevant to the breadth and depth of their knowledge and skill. Accordingly, each Member has an obligation to demonstrate a core level of competence, and must sustain or expand that level of competence over time.

4.4       Reference to other Professional Standards

Professional standards are not applied in a vacuum. Members must perform their paid and volunteer services in a manner that respects the financial consequences of their actions and decisions.

The IMA is not the only professional body that prescribes professional standards for individuals that work in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment. Accordingly, a duty of membership in the IMA is to be aware of the definitions, technical standards and practice directions (the "Guidelines") adopted by the International Valuation Standards Council (the "IVSC") and International Association of Assessing Officers, (the "IAAO") and to have regard for the IVSC and IAAO Guidelines in performing real property valuation and municipal assessment. Members are also expected to be aware of the Guidelines adopted by the Appraisal Institute of Canada, as they are expressed in the Canadian Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

4.5       Requirement to be Impartial and Unbiased

The financial nature of real property valuation and municipal assessment requires that services be impartial and unbiased.

  • The test of impartiality is met when property values are determined or recommended with reference to the best available information and other empirical sources of data.
  • The test of freedom from bias is met when interpretation, subjectivity, and other qualitative methods of analysis and reporting, are transparent, open to peer review, and may be substantiated or validated with reference to empirical data.

4.6       Requirement to be Transparent

Members must take appropriate steps to ensure that their paid and volunteer work conducting real property valuation and municipal assessment is documented and reported in a manner that is easily understood. Transparency of work methods and results represent an important means to ensure that Members are performing professional activities in a manner that is impartial and unbiased. All work performed by Members should be capable of being independently reviewed and challenged.

The Professional Standards extend beyond the scope of work and methods of analysis. The Professional Standards also serve as a constant reminder of the commitment by each Member to provide customer-centric services. Accordingly, each Member has an obligation to clients, customers, peers, adjudicators, and the general public, to disclose all restrictions, conditions and other factors that could affect the interpretation, accuracy, and use of their work-product and services.

4.7       Requirement to be Truthful

To be clear, the Professional Standards require a commitment from Members to be candid and truthful in their dealings with clients, customers, peers and others that seek professional advice or expert opinion in the fields of real property valuation and municipal assessment.

4.8       Compliance with Current Legislation

The Professional Standards address core duties and obligations that must be present in the way each Member approaches the provision of their paid and volunteer services. There is an element of subjectivity and personal discretion in the manner in which each Member choses to apply the Professional Standards.

The exercise of personal discretion and subjectivity, however, must not interfere with the duty of each Member to comply with applicable law and statute. Legislation sets out the statutory regime that governs property tax assessments. Accordingly, before undertaking a real property valuation or municipal assessment assignment, each Member must have knowledge of the relevant:

  • Legislation for the applicable assessment jurisdiction; and
  • Jurisprudence and case law that provides guidance on how the statutory regime is to be applied.

4.9       Application of Appropriate Valuation Methods

There is a standing requirement that all work performed by Members be impartial and unbiased. That goal can be achieved when appropriate valuation methods are chosen and applied correctly. Accordingly, in conducting real property valuations and municipal assessment assignments, Members must take care to:

a. Select and apply one (or more) valuation approach that is appropriate for the type of property concerned;
b. Apply the chosen valuation methodologies with proper regard for the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods, and transparency in both analysis and reporting; and
c. Consider standards published or reported by the IMA and other bodies, in particular the IAAO and IVSC, and have regard for relevant case law when considering the valuation methods that are appropriate for each type and class of property.

i. The IAAO publishes a series of technical standards applicable to property tax administration, property tax policy, and valuation of property such as mass appraisal and related disciplines.
ii. The IAAO standards are advisory in nature and the use of, or compliance with, those standards are voluntary. However, IAAO standards represent a consensus in the assessing profession and thus assessment professionals should be aware of and follow them to the extent that they are applicable to a particular assessment assignment.
iii. In contrast to mass appraisal, the review or appeal of an assessment by a taxpayer or any party, brings the valuation into the realm of an individual valuation. In this situation, the standards of the IVSC should be considered, subject to the governing laws of the assessment jurisdiction.

4.10     Reporting and Disclosure

Members should produce written reports in accordance with Guidelines relating to reports adopted by the IVSC and IAAO, to the extent that those Guidelines are relevant to a particular assessment assignment.

Members should ensure that reports relating to assessment assignments contain all relevant information that the recipient of the report requires. This is particularly important in the case of reports that are produced in contemplation of appeals or litigation.

The reporting requirements relating to a mass appraisal are different from those that apply to an individual property valuation. Members conducting a mass appraisal assessment assignment should follow the IAAO Technical Standard on Communications, subject to the governing laws of the assessment jurisdiction.

4.11     Provision of Expert Testimony

The Professional Standards that have been described in general terms above will serve the needs of all Members. In particular, Members that provide expert testimony in courts and tribunals are expected to present evidence and opinions that meet all of the preceding goals and guidelines, and seek to create and maintain fair and equitable real property valuations.

Members who are retained or called upon to provide opinion evidence and expert testimony have a compelling duty to provide independent expert opinion to assist the adjudicator or decision-maker in understanding the facts, issues, and other matters in dispute.

Members serving as an expert witness must, therefore, consider and disclose all relevant information, and ensure that the written and oral evidence is objective and unbiased.

It is particularly important that as an expert witness, each Member must provide professional services that fall within the scope of the Member's acknowledged expertise, and not advocate for any particular position.

The IMA has adopted the recommendations of the Goudge Commission (see Stephen T. Goudge, "Dr. Smith and the Practice of Pediatric Forensic Pathology," vol. 2, Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario, ch. 8, online at http://www.goudgeinquiry.ca) as being applicable to the duties and roles performed by Members when providing expert testimony or serving as an expert witness.

4.12     Enforcement of the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards

The IMA will take action in respect of any Member found to have acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards.

Under the Institute of Municipal Assessors Act, 1987, the IMA has power to establish a by-law to govern the professional practice of the Institute's Members. Section 5 of the Act provides:

a. The board may pass by-laws regarding such matters as are necessary to conduct the business and carry out the objects of the IMA and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, the board may pass by-laws:

i.   Establishing the qualifications for and conditions of registration for members;
ii.  Establishing a curriculum and courses of study to be pursued by students and members and the subjects upon which students and members of the IMA shall be examined and for granting certificates to students and candidates who have successfully passed the examinations;
iii. Regulating and governing the conduct of members of the IMA in the practice of their business, vocation or profession, by prescribing a code of ethics, rules of professional conduct and standards of practice, and by providing for the suspension, expulsion or other penalty for professional misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.

The IMA has exercised its powers under the foregoing provisions (specifically, section 5 (1) (c)) and will enforce its Code of Ethics and Professional Standards accordingly.

5.0 Code of Ethics and Professional Standards Declaration

5.1       Declaration for New Membership

By applying for membership in the IMA and submitting the required information for consideration, the applicant agrees to abide by the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards Bylaws of the IMA and submit accurate information. The applicant understands that it is a breach of the IMA's Code of Ethics and Professional Standards to provide false information. The member also understands that payments of annual dues are required to maintain membership status within the IMA.

5.2       Declaration for Renewal of Membership
By renewing the annual IMA membership and submitting the required information for consideration, the member agrees to abide by the IMA's Code of Ethics and Professional Standards Bylaws and submit accurate information. The member understands that it is a breach of the IMA's Code of Ethics and Professional Standards to provide false information. The member also understands that payments of annual dues are required to maintain membership status with the IMA.


Passed by the Board of Directors on the 12th day of March, 2014

Lawrence Hummel, M.I.M.A.                        Mario Vittiglio, M.I.M.A.
President                                                         Secretary

Ratified by the majority of the Members of the Institute at the 2014 AGM on the 24th of JUNE, 2014.

Lawrence Hummel, M.I.M.A.                         Mario Vittiglio, M.I.M.A.
President                                                         Secretary

 

INSTITUTE OF MUNICIPAL ASSESSORS
CODE OF ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL STANDARD

APPENDIX "A"

PROGRAM FOR A.I.M.A. DESIGNATION

Based  on the Goudge Commission's final report, listed below are Justice Goudge's rules discussing the ethical and legal responsibilities of an expert witness when preparing and presenting evidence (see Stephen T. Goudge, "Dr. Smith and the Practice of Pediatric Forensic Pathology," vol. 2, Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario, ch. 8, online at http://www.goudgeinquiry.ca).

Preparing Your Opinion

Experts must:

1.   Be aware of the limits of their expertise, stay within those limits, and not exaggerate them;
2.   Consider all relevant information and disregard irrelevant information;
3.   Keep notes;
4.   Record what they did, saw, heard, or collected;
5.   Begin their analysis without a preconception, consider all contradictory evidence, and explain why it does or does not affect their opinion; and
6.   Consider any evidence they receive after their report is completed and be willing to change their opinion on the basis of this new evidence.

Giving Expert Evidence

1.     Give evidence in court that is understandable, reasonable, balanced, and substantiated.
2.     Do not advocate for your client's position--that is not the expert's role.
3.     Do not adopt other's opinions as your own without making clear that you are doing so and explaining why you are accepting the opinion.
4.     Don't be defensive.
5.     Do not think that it is sufficient to read over the expert report prior to giving evidence--it is not.
6.     Do not overstate your expertise.
7.     The evidence and opinion must be balanced.
8.     Ensure that you explain and that the trier of fact understands any controversies in your area of expertise.
9.     Do not give "unprofessional" or "unwarranted" criticism of other experts.
10.     Do not speculate on matters not supported by the evidence.
11.    Do not give expert evidence in casual language.
12.    Do not mislead the trier of fact.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
________________________________________________________________

 

The Institute of Municipal Assessors (IMA) Code of Ethics and Professional Standards was developed in 2013/2014 under the guidance of Lawrence K. E. Hummel. M.I.M.A. IMA President and Sean Martin, M.I.M.A., Colleen Vercouteren, M.I.M.A., Domenic Mariano, M.I.M.A. and Rose Mclean, M.I.M.A., IMA Executive Committee. The Institute of Municipal Assessors would like to recognize the following people for their contribution to the preparation and development of this document:


Terry Bishop

Jeffrey Climans

Carl Davis

Karey Lunau

Cam McCullum

Brian Moore


The Institute of Municipal Assessors also thanks Mr. Richard Stephenson, Executive Vice-Chair of the Assessment Review Board, for his participation and thoughtful comments.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher: Institute of Municipal Assessors. 

Copyright 2014.

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