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B.C. farms keep “farm” tax status for 2009

Any major moves to reclassify what constitutes a “farm” in British Columbia for municipal tax purposes will now wait until the 2010 tax year.

The provincial government will accept that interim recommendation as one of three from its farm assessment review panel, which plans to hold hearings in coming months to discuss that issue.

Specifically, the panel, co-chaired by Peace region MLA Blair Lekstrom and Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, recommended suspending any further large-scale farm classification projects by BC Assessment until the panel’s report is received and decisions are made.

“Properties having farm status on all or part of the land area in 2008, and on which there has been no substantial change in the farm operation, will retain farm status for 2009,” said a provincial press release Monday.

The panel’s other two interim recommendations include:

  • having BC Assessment use a professional agrologist to provide technical advice where necessary, regarding farming practices as they relate to assessment and farm classification; and
  • having the provincial ministry of small business and revenue consider using federal income tax information to determine farm income, subject to a further feasibility analysis by ministry staff.

“These are steps the province can take in the short term while the panel does its work over the next several months,” panel co-chair Leonard said in the province’s release.

The review panel is expected to provide the province with a final report and recommendations by July 31, 2009, for consideration for the 2010 assessment roll.

“We will be in communities all over the province over the coming months, and I encourage people to offer us their insights,” co-chair Lekstrom said in the release.

“BC Assessment fully supports these interim recommendations,” said Lillian White, board chair of BC Assessment, also in the province’s release. “We all want to ensure farm assessment procedures are fair, transparent and support the agriculture industry.”

Formed in December 2007 by Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe, the assessment review panel includes elected representatives from local and provincial governments, a “cross-section” of British Columbia’s farming community, and the board of BC Assessment.

The panel was developed after controversy in Saanich over a reassessment of farm properties that reclassified many as partly residential — thus taxing them at a higher rate than strictly “farm” property.

The panel’s objective, according to its terms of reference, is “to review the farm classification process and regulations with a focus on simplifying and streamlining the regulations, while at the same time ensuring the property assessment system is fair, equitable, enhances competitiveness and supports innovation and the British Columbia Agriculture Plan and a healthy future for British Columbia families and communities.”

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