Thursday, April 30, 2015

Taxation: Market Value Assessment

Here's my first of a series of blogs on municipal taxation.  I am writing these to address a concern by a citizen at last Monday's Town Hall Meeting.

The biggest source of income for all municipalities in Alberta is property taxation.  Every year, each municipality goes through a complicated procedure to figure out how much each property holder in that municipality will pay in property taxes.  Here are the steps;

Assessment:  First, the municipality must establish how much each property is worth so it may be taxed accordingly.  A few years ago, the Alberta provincial government insisted that the municipalities go to a system called "Market Value Assessment" aka MVA.  That means that each property would be assessed based on what the owner might get, if he were to sell it on the market today.

That works in larger municipalities, where many properties are bought and sold each year - but for small communities like ours, assessors must rely on a formula based on the selling price of similar properties in other similarly sized communities.  I think this system is seriously flawed --because finding a municipality exactly like ours is next to impossible.

Another problem with the MVA is the hardship it creates with seniors on a fixed income.  In Calgary, middle-class homes purchased in the 1950s and 1960s are now considered "inner city," and are assessed at millions of dollars!  Their assessments are so high, that those seniors who bought those homes 50 years ago can't afford the $500/month in property taxes.  They are priced out of their own homes and forced to move!

Larger municipalities can afford to have a "tax department," which can assess properties and handle any appeals.  Smaller communities like Beiseker have to hire an assessment company to do our assessments.

Every property owner will receive a assessment notice, usually in the spring of each year.  Property owners can appeal their assessment -- although there is a fee to do that. Property owners cannot appeal their taxes, only their assessments.

After all the assessments are completed, the assessors send the municipality a Total Assessment figure.  That represents what they think the total worth of the municipality.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how the municipality uses that figure to decide how much you pay in property taxes.

No comments:

Post a Comment