by BETTER FARMING STAFF
While farm properties - land, house and buildings – have gone up in value 34 per cent on average over the last four years in Ontario, farmland has gone up 46 per cent during the same period. The increases are based on actual farmer-to-farmer sales.
Larry Hummel, chief assessor for the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which announced the findings this week, says there has been a dramatic difference in the rate of assessment increase between residential properties, farm properties and farmland.
“Across Ontario,” Hummel says, “the residential tax class is up 18 per cent on average.” The period of assessment was from Jan. 1, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2012.
Mark Wales is president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and a municipal councilor in Township of Malahide in the Aylmer area. He says farmland values in his municipality went up 60 per cent over the four-year period. Wales is advising farmers across the province to make sure their assessments are accurate when they come out this fall because there is a finite time allowed for appeals.
“Take a close look at farm buildings,” he advises. “Make sure an old bunkhouse is not assessed as a dwelling, for example.” Wales says while farmland in Malahide went up 60 per cent over the four-year period, residential properties went up just 12 per cent.
Under Ontario law, farm homes and one acre of property on which the home sits are taxed at the same rate as residential property in the municipality. The maximum tax rate for farmland is 25 per cent of the residential tax rate. However, municipalities can adjust the tax rate so that it is lower than 25 per cent of the residential rate and Wales says he is reminding farmers on council of that fact.
Hummel says the new snapshot of the value of land in Ontario leads to a “reallocation of the share the property represents in the entire community.” It’s up to the municipality “whether or not they want to adjust the rate; do they want to make it lower than 25 per cent,” he notes.
When the assessment arrives, Hummel recommends that landowners look it over and, if everything is in order, ask this question: “Could I have sold this property for that amount?” If the answer is yes, he says, “then you can put the paper away. We’ve done our job.”
If there is a problem, MPAC has an interactive website. The website has more detail about the assessment, although Hummel says it is more geared to residential at this point.
“If there is a question about the value of the farm and how we’ve assessed it,” Hummel says, then (taxpayers) should call the MPAC call centre (1 866 296- 6722), and voice their concerns. If they think the value is definitely wrong, they should file a request for consideration. Once that’s reviewed by an assessor and an answer is given, the applicant has 60 days to appeal to the Assessment Review Board for a hearing.
The steps for appealing an assessment are listed on MPAC’s website. BF