Calgary

Here's why your property tax bill might be higher than you expected

Some Calgary homeowners had sticker shock opening their residential property tax bills this week — and the city says it has to do with each home's assessed value.

Tax increase has to do with how much your home's assessed value changed, compared to the benchmark

Some Calgary homeowners were surprised by the increases to their property tax bills this year. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Some Calgary homeowners had sticker shock opening their residential property tax bills this week — and the city says it has to do with each home's assessed value.

"I hid it before my husband could see it," homeowner Jaclyn Schmitz said. "It was a bit of a surprise."

Joe Harrison said his property tax bill went up between 10 and 15 per cent from last year.

"I don't actually know if I totally understand yet where that increase has come from," he said.

City council approved a 3.45 per cent tax hike for this year, which amounts to a $105 increase for the owner of a median residential property valued at $475,000.

But, says city director of assessment Nelson Karpa, that 3.45 per cent increase only applies if a homeowner's assessment went down at least one per cent — that's how much all residential assessments dropped by, so it's the benchmark.

The total value of Calgary's assessment roll this year dropped to $306 billion, from $311 billion last year.

That's a median drop of $5,000 for homes and condos.

It depends on the overall value of your real estate but in comparison to what the general market did.- Nelson Karpa, director of property tax assessments for the City of Calgary

So if a home's value was assessed to be even slightly more than it was last year, the tax hike will be higher than that 3.45 per cent.

"The further you are away from the typical change, you will see those percentages in your bottom line property tax increases change," Karpa said. "At the end of the day, the assessment system is really just a distribution system and it depends on the overall value of your real estate but in comparison to what the general market did."

Assessments are based on market evaluations from July the previous year.

The appeal period for this year's property assessments closed in mid-March — so tax bills are final.

But Karpa encourages owners to get in touch with any questions if they would like to have their file reviewed.

Homeowner Paul Ritchie was in a state of property tax bliss on Tuesday — because he hadn't opened his mail yet. (Colin Hall/CBC)

One homeowner has a different strategy for dealing with the bill.

"I haven't opened it yet," said Paul Ritchie. "It's gonna be what it's gonna be so I thought I didn't want to spoil the day. It's such a beautiful day. [I'll] look at it when I get home."

The city says it has assistance programs available for people having difficulty paying their taxes, and that more information about property assessments and taxes are available online. Taxes are due by June 28. 

With files from Scott Dippel, Colin Hall

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