Assessment Definitions

The Saddle Hills County assessment department prepares assessments for properties on an annual basis in accordance with legislative requirements outlined in the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Farmland, machinery & equipment, and certain non-residential properties are assessed at regulated rates derived from provincial legislation and regulation. Residential, small business, and certain non-residential properties are assessed based on their market value using recent comparable sales of similar properties.

Assessment inspections are done annually and we let you know we are inspecting by advertising on our website, social media and in the Central Peace Signal.

What is the difference between assessment and taxes?

Taxes and Assessment are often confused. Although related, each is a distinct and independent process.

"Assessment" is the process of assigning a dollar value to a property. This value is then used to calculate the amount of taxes owed.

"Taxation" is the process of applying a tax rate to a property's assessed value. This determines the taxes payable. Tax rates are determined by council annually and available in the current Tax Rates Bylaw.

Property Assessment x Tax Rate = Taxes Payable

An owner cannot change the tax rate; however, an owner can question their property assessment.

ADDRESS CHANGES

If Canada Post has recently changed your mailing address, or you have moved, please remember to update your information with Saddle Hills County.

You should also update your address with the land titles office to ensure your correct mailing address is recorded on the certificate of title. Visit Service Alberta for more information.

What you need to know

The previous year’s property assessment is used to calculate the current year’s taxes.

Saddle Hills County issues a combined property assessment and tax notice. This begins a 67-day assessment complaint period. During this time, we encourage you to review your assessment details and contact assessment if you have any questions or comments. The assessment complaint period is the time we dedicate to working with you to review your property assessment. We are committed to providing reliable information and service that you can count on. 

If you received an amended assessment notice then your 67-day assessment complaint period will begin based on the date of your amended notice. 

What happens next?

  • Assessors prepare the assessments.
  • Saddle Hills County council sets the tax rate, referred to as mill rate
  • Council approves an annual budget to operate their municipality, and the revenue required is divided by the municipality’s assessment base.

What should you do?

Step 1: Review your assessment notice

Check the accuracy of your property details and search for comparable properties and sales in your area, to ensure your assessment is fair and equitable.

Step 2: Talk to us during the assessment complaint period

If you have any questions or comments about your assessment value, the process, or anything related to your assessment, please contact us and we’d be happy to assist you.

What you can do:

  • Share you questions and comments with us
  • Update us on your property
  • Learn more about how your property was assessed
  • Show us comparable properties you found in your assessment search
  • Make a free appointment with an assessor to discuss your property in depth. Appointments may be in-person or over the phone depending on your preference.

What we will do:

  • Verify and confirm information about your property
  • Explain what we need to verify or correct any inconsistencies. Confirmed inconsistencies will be corrected.
  • Share how your property assessment was determined
  • Look at the different properties that may have been used as comparable properties, including those found in your research
  • Discuss variables which may have influenced your property value
  • Answer your questions in an honest, transparent and respectful manner
  • If we cannot come to a consensus, assist you in appealing to the Assessment Review Board (ARB)

What to do if we can't reach an agreement

If we are unable to come to a consensus about the assessment of your property, you may file a complaint with the Assessment Review Board (ARB). The ARB is an impartial tribunal that hears and resolves assessment complaints by property owners. A complaint may be filed no later than the final date noted on the front of your assessment notice.

You cannot appeal your tax notice, only the assessment of your property (assessment notice)

A valid assessment complaint form must be accompanied by the required filing fee, indicated on the front of the assessment notice. Before filing your complaint with the ARB please speak to us and we will provide you with a brief summary of the steps you will need to take.

If you choose to file a complaint, your hearing date will be provided to you by the ARB. It is suggested that you gather and prepare the evidence you wish to provide even before you have been given a hearing date. This is an important task as you will need to provide evidence which supports your determination that your assessment is incorrect. 
 
For more information, please review the MGA’s Matters Relating to Assessment Complaints Regulation.

Farmland Assessment

Farmland Assessment Policy: Farmland assessments are governed and regulated by the Municipal Government Act (MGA), associated Regulations, and the applicable Minister’s Guidelines of Farmland Assessment. Farmland assessments are completed on an annual basis, using the valuation date of July 1 of the year prior to the tax year. The valuation standard for farmland assessment is based on “agricultural use value” as determined by the Minister of Municipal Affairs from year to year. In Alberta, the “agricultural use value” is divided into three categories, each with farmland rates: Dryland Arable, Pasture Land, and Irrigated Arable. There are no irrigated farmlands found in Saddle Hills County.   

 

Farmland Ratings and Application:The farmland rating system categorizes all areas of the province into 16 different agro-climatic regions and four irrigation regions. Typical net income has been established for each type of soil classification within the above-noted 16 zones and the four irrigation districts of the province.  

Net income was established as the basis for “agricultural use value” and reflects typical cropping rotations, yields, prices and input costs of production.  A soil group classification within an agricultural zone with the highest net income was assigned a rating of 100. All other soil groups are then ranked based on their net income relative to 100%. 

As the physical land attributes diminish in agricultural production (quality of land), a lesser percent rating is applicable to the affected farmland.

All of these factors can be summarized into two groups: Net Productivity Ratings and Cost of Production Ratings. Factors recognized in the Net Productivity Ratings include the soil class, cultivation depth and color, subsoil, soil texture, saline or alkali, acidity and flood delay.  Factors recognized in the Cost of Production are adverse topography, stones, irregular shaped fields, obstacles, severance of fields and other miscellaneous features affecting cost of production. 

 

Farmland Qualifications: what qualifies for farmland status?: The Minister of Municipal Affairs has developed strict guidelines and rules for land classified as “farmland”.

By definition, “Farming Operations” means the raising, production and sale of agricultural products and includes 1) Horticulture, aviculture, apiculture and aquaculture.  2) The production of horses, cattle, bison, sheep, swine, goats, fur bearing animals, raised in captivity, domestic cervids within the meaning of the Livestock Industry Diversification Act, and domestic camelids, and 3) The planting, growing and sale of sod. 

Should any of the above activities take place on the parcel of land, only then does the land qualify for farm status and assessment as agricultural use value. What does “agricultural use value” mean? It means the value of a parcel of land based exclusively on its use for farming operation.

If the land is not used for farming operations as prescribed by definition, the land cannot be assessed as agricultural use value and must, by legislation, be assessed at the market value standard.

Please note that when a parcel of land has qualified as farmland, it is assessed using regulated rates (agricultural use value) and this value has no relationship or reflection on the market value of the property.

Farm Improvements

Farm Buildings: The definition of a farm building is any improvement other than a residence, to the extent it is used for farming operations.  

The first order of priority for any building other than a residence to be considered as a “farm building” is to engage in a “farming operation” on your property. Without evidence of farming operations, outbuilding or structures cannot be considered farm buildings. 

In rural Alberta, farming buildings are exempt from assessment according to Provincial legislation. As a result of this exemption, no property tax is paid on a farm building.

Farm Residence(s): All farm residences in rural municipalities are valued and assessed on the basis of market value. The dominant valuation approach in leading to the market value standard in a rural municipality is the cost approach modified to the market.  The direct sales comparison approach is widely used to complement the cost approach. The income approach is rare and in most cases, is never used. The value of the farm residence is adjusted based on positive or negative attributes of the property, size and features of the house, services and location.

Farm residence(s) can receive exemptions from the market value assessment. In rural municipalities, the Provincial Government allows a farm residence to be exempt on the basis of the amount of farmland assessment in the owner’s unit this is called a RIAER or RAP amount.  The maximum exemption is $61,540 for the first residence of a farm owner’s unit, and $30,770 for each additional residence. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What qualifies for farmland class on my property?

A: Lands that have previously been assessed and classed as farmland are lands that are exclusively used for farming operations and have historically been treated and taxed as such. If the use of the parcel of land continues in a farming operation, the property will continue to be assessed as farmland. If your land has not been assessed as farmland and you start up a farming operation, you may qualify for farmland status in the following tax year. To determine if you qualify, contact the County’s assessor at 780-864-3760.

 

Q: Can the assessor ask for sale receipts to prove farm income?

A: Yes, to qualify as a farming operation, there must be a sale of agricultural products that were raised on, or produced from, the applicable parcel of land. Sales receipts and evidence of farm income will help to determine your eligibility

 

Q: What happens if I cannot supply sales receipts?

A: Your property will be inspected for farm activity, and you will be required to provide a historical sales log, or other proof of farm sales, from the parcel of land. Otherwise, the parcel of land will be assessed based on market value.

 

Q: Can farm status be re-instated in the future?

A: Your property can qualify for farm status in the following tax year if you let your assessor know your status has changed for farm classification and meet the legislated requirements.

 

Q: What if I sell or buy property that was assessed as farmland last year?

A: All farmland sales are investigated thoroughly, identifying buyer and seller, analysis of arms length transactions, market value property analysis, use of existing farm practices by the seller, and future use of property by the buyer. The Assessment Department will determine whether a piece of property can continue to be assessed as farmland.

 

Q: Why does an Assessor need to visit my property?

A: An Assessor visits your property to accurately determine the physical characteristics, condition and use of the property. They will determine if buildings are present on the property and their use. The Assessor will also determine how the parcel is to be assessed, if all or part of the parcel is being used for farm, a farm residence, or other uses on the property or within buildings. The Municipal Government Act provides assessors with the authority to enter the property and examine records in accordance with their duties.

 

Q: Can my assessment classification change as a result of an inspection? 

A: The objective of a farm property inspection is to ensure that the proper assessment classification is placed on the property. If the assessor determines that your property may classify for farmland status, you may be contacted for more information.

 

Q: How will the loss of farmland status change my taxes?

A: If a parcel of land is not farmed, it will be assessed at market value. This will result in an increase in property taxes. 

 

Q: Why do we have annual assessments?

A: The Municipal Government Act (MGA) legislates and requires that all property in Alberta be assessed each year. Annual assessments ensure that changes in the market place are captured annually, protecting tax payers from large market fluctuations over time.  Property assessments are used to distribute taxes in a fair and equitable way.  This means that owners of property with similar market values will pay similar amounts of property taxes.

 

Q: What types of property are there in Saddle Hills County?

A:  For assessment purposes, properties are divided into four general classes:

  • Residential (vacant or improved houses, cottages, acreages, and farm sites) which is assessed at market value.
  • Non-residential (commercial or industrial businesses, including land and buildings) which is assessed at market value. Two sub-classes exist within the non-residential class:

Designated Industrial Property (wells, pipelines, power lines, cable distribution, and telecommunications) which is assessed at regulated values,

Small Business, which is assessed in the same manner as other non-residential property. Small business can be subject to a lower mill rate for property taxes if council sets a different amount for this class.

  • Farmland (land used for farming operations as defined in the regulations) assessed at regulated values.
  • Machinery and equipment DIP (oil and gas field facilities and plants, processing or manufacturing facilities) regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Alberta Utilities Commission, or the National Energy Board, are assessed at regulated rates.

 

Q: What is market value?
A:  Market value is the price a property would likely yield if sold after adequate time and exposure on the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer. The Assessor determines this figure by extensively analyzing sales transactions for similar property types for a twelve-month period from July 1 to June 30 to determine market trends and patterns, and then uses mass appraisal techniques to finalize market values to be used for the subsequent taxation year. For example: your 2022 property assessment notice is based on mid-range values as of July 1, 2021, real estate market conditions and reflects the physical condition as of December 31, 2021.

Properties not assessed on a market value standard include farmland, railway, machinery and equipment, and designated industrial property. These are assessed at prescribed regulated rates and standards mandated by the Minister of Alberta Municipal Affairs, using the Minister's Guidelines for Regulated Property.

 

Q: How can I judge whether the assessment is reasonable and fair?

A: Ask yourself if the assessment reflects a mid-range value as of July 1 of the previous year. Would you have considered selling your property then, for the assessed value? If the answer is ‘yes’, or ‘maybe’, then the assessment is probably reasonable. If the answer is ‘definitely no’, and you are not a farmer with exemptions, or are a farmer with exemptions and need to know more, then you should speak to the Assessor.

 

assessment@saddlehills.ab.ca 

780.864.3760 ext. 202