B.C. assessment breaks extended to livestock genetics

British Columbia’s plans to broaden farmers’ eligibility for municipal property tax exemptions will now be extended to livestock genetics operations, horse stud services and syrup producers, as well as to retired farmers.

Providing more details on regulatory amendments first announced in November, the province on Wednesday said it will give B.C. farmers "more flexibility in meeting the requirements to maintain farm status" for the 2013 tax assessment roll.

The new production types added to the province’s list of "qualifying agricultural products" — previously referred to in municipal tax terms as "primary agricultural production" or "PAP" — include:

  • "breeding products," which means genetic material such as livestock semen, ova and embryos, produced as part of raising livestock;
  • horse stud services, provided as part of horse rearing; and
  • production of broad-leaf maple and birch sap or syrup.

As previously promised in November, the province said Wednesday it also plans to increase the tax exemption limit on farm outbuilding improvements.

Since 1983, farm improvements in B.C. have been eligible for exemptions from general municipal taxation — but only up to a maximum of $50,000, regardless of the value of the improvements.

The changes announced Wednesday for the 2013 tax roll will see that maximum rise to either 87.5 per cent or $50,000 of assessed value, whichever is greater.

The change "will encourage the development of more intensive farming operations throughout the province by improving and expanding farm infrastructure," the province said, noting operations such as dairy, greenhouse, poultry or mushroom farms can involve capital investments of "several million dollars."

The province also pledged in November to extend the "farmer’s dwelling and home site" farm classification to retired farmers in the B.C. Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), as long as the farms in question stay in production.

To be eligible for this exemption in 2013, the retired owner’s dwelling must be located in a rural taxation area within the ALR, and must be either on land classified as "farm" or adjacent to farmland that’s owned by the retired farmer or spouse.

Extending the farm classification benefit to retired farmers "will support farming families and recognize the long-time contribution of the farmer to food production and maintaining agricultural land," the province said.

The benefit is limited to dwellings on ALR land, however, because ALR farmers "have fewer options for the use of their land and for alternative living facilities, especially in rural areas."

"Negative impacts"

The planned changes announced Wednesday are among the recommendations from the July 2009 report by the province’s Farm Assessment Review Panel.

Once the changes announced for 2013 come into effect, the province said, it will have implemented all but two of the panel’s recommendations.

One of the rejected recommendations called for mandatory federal income tax reporting in order to receive provincial "farm" status for municipal tax purposes. The other proposed a single income threshold of $3,500 in farm income to qualify for farm status.

The province said it decided that requiring all farmers to confirm they’ve reported farm income for federal tax purposes could have resulted in some farmers losing their provincial farm status, or could have meant "an additional step" for farmers to get or maintain farm status.

Dropping the two other current thresholds of $10,000 in farm income (for farms smaller than 0.8 hectares) or five per cent of assessed farmland value (for farms over four hectares) would have had "negative impacts on farms in current economic conditions," the province said.

Related stories:
B.C. boosts assessment exemption for farm improvements, Nov. 2, 2011
B.C. tax panel urges phased-in redefinition of "farm," Aug. 1, 2009

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