by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Farmers can expect increased assessed property values when the results of a routine Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assessment update arrive in the mailbox in 2016.
But Rose McLean, MPAC chief operating officer, cautions that just because assessments go up, it doesn’t mean property taxes will automatically rise.
“Assessment updates are intended to be revenue neutral,” she explains. “They simply redistribute the existing tax burden across the municipality so that taxes continue to be apportioned to tax payers based on the relative value of their properties. It’s only if your assessed value increases more than the average in the municipality that the assessment update results in a tax increase.”
Farmland (with the exception of a residence and adjoining land on the farm) is taxed at a quarter of the residential rate. McLean says that means if farm values end up increasing at a rate faster than the residential rates do, “then the assessment update can result in a shift of taxes to the farm property class.” But it’s really up to municipalities to make the decision when they set their tax rations next year, she says.
McLean says preliminary values have been determined for 28 per cent of Ontario’s 222,000 farms and so far “we’re seeing 40 per cent increases from 2012 to 2016, and in the GTA and areas just east of the GTA they’re as high as 48 per cent.”
In a presentation during the Ontario Federation of Agriculture annual meeting earlier this week, McLean noted that Class 1 farmland in southwestern Ontario as well as in the Ottawa Valley is selling for as much as $11,000 to $12,000 per acre.
The price is in the range of $7,000 to $8,000 in other areas of the province and “not unexpectedly,” she says, for $3,200 in northern Ontario. The numbers are a sample and preliminary, she emphasizes. “Within each one of these markets there’s sub markets and differences depending on the exact area.”
McLean says Farm Credit Canada analysis indicates that the compound increase in farmland in Ontario since 2012 is 58 per cent.
She attributes the rise in value to a demand that “significantly” outstrips supply and creates competition for what is available. “This coupled with low interest rates is playing a role in rising land values,” she says.
Many sectors are contributing to the growing demand, she says, including intensive livestock operations needing land for manure management and, in some areas, foreign investors.
McLean notes that when MPAC conducts its assessment it only takes into account sales where property is sold to a farmer whose principal occupation is farming. Sales of farmland to foreign investors or developers, for example, are excluded from the assessment.
The not-for-profit corporation that’s funded by Ontario municipalities delivers the updates every four years. Municipalities use the values in the property taxation process; the 2016 valuation, based on what a property is worth January 1 of that year, will be used for taxation for the 2017 to 2020 tax years. BF