In 1995, the new Municipal Government Act consolidated a number of acts governing municipalities, including the former Municipal Government Act, the Municipal Taxation Act and other related legislation. In addition, the act set out the foundations for a current market value based assessment system for most property in Alberta.
The Municipal Government Act gives direction to municipalities to prepare assessments every year.
The Municipal Government Act sets out two types of valuation standards—the market value based standard and the regulated procedure based standard.
The market value based standard is considered the most fair and equitable means of assessing property. It is fair because similar properties are assessed in the same manner; it is equitable because owners of similar properties in a municipality will pay a similar amount of property tax.
The regulated procedure based standard uses rates and procedures prescribed by Municipal Affairs to calculate assessed values for certain types of properties. These types of properties include farmland, linear property, machinery and equipment, and railway property.
The Assessment Roll
An assessment roll is a listing of all assessable properties in a municipality and their assessed values. The Municipal Government Act requires each municipality to produce an assessment roll by February 28 of each year.
The assessment roll must contain the following information for each assessed property:
- Assessed person (owner of the property), including name and mailing address
- Property type assessed (land, improvements, or land and improvements)
- Description of the property
- Assessed value
- Assessment class
- School support declaration
- Taxable status (total or partial exemption from taxation)
Assessment notices are created from the information on the assessment roll. The assessment notice is the document that municipalities send to property owners to tell them about the assessment of their property.
An assessment notice or an amended assessment notice must show the following:
- the same information that is required to be shown on the assessment roll;
- the date the assessment notice or amended assessment notice is sent to the assessed person;
- the date by which a complaint must be made, which date must be 60 days after the assessment notice or amended assessment notice is sent to the assessed person;
- the name and address of the designated officer with whom a complaint must be filed;
- any other information considered appropriate by the municipality.
- Each year every municipality is required to send an assessment notice to every assessed person listed on the assessment roll. Each municipality must publish a notification in one issue of a local newspaper to announce that the assessment notices have been mailed to property owners within the municipality.
Sometimes an error is found on an assessment notice. The assessed person can contact the assessor to have this information corrected. Corrections can only be made to current-year assessment notices. This means that an assessor cannot change an error, omission, or wrong description on an assessment notice from a previous year.
Each property listed on the assessment roll in a municipality receives an assessment notice, even if its exempt from property taxation. One of the important features of Alberta's assessment system is that assessed persons have the ability to complain about their assessment or tax status. If an assessed party believes that his or her property should receive an exemption from assessment, property taxation, or both, then the property's exemption status can be challenged via an assessment complaint.
Municipal Property Taxation
Under the Municipal Government Act, municipalities are responsible for collecting taxes for municipal and educational purposes. Property taxes are levied based on the value of the property as determined from the property assessment process. Property taxes are not a fee for service, but a way of distributing the cost for local government services and programs fairly throughout a municipality.
The property tax system is comprised of two distinct processes—preparing the assessments, and setting the tax rate. The assessor's job is to prepare assessments. The municipal council is responsible for completing the second process, setting the tax rate. In addition to setting the tax rate, the municipal council is responsible for calculating the taxes payable, and collecting the taxes.