Forest land tax freeze continues while homeowners protest tax bills
Forest land assessed at $100/hectare since 1993 even though it routinely sells for 10 times that amount
A tree-covered property in Hanwell outside Fredericton that Service New Brunswick assessed to be worth $8,200 earlier this month — even though records show it sold for $242,500 last June — is highlighting the different ways landowners are being treated by the province's property tax system again this year.
Thousands of New Brunswick property owners are currently appealing their 2017 assessments, concerned provincial assessors have gone overboard trying to assign a "market value" to their home or business.
The province has taken an especially hard line on landlords, raising assessments more than 50 per cent in several cases to match the government's view of their property's true worth.
"His reasoning was that I wasn't paying enough tax all along anyway," said Wilson.
But that's not the case for owners of more than 70,000 forest properties whose assessments have been set well below market value for several years and have been frozen by the province again in 2017.
Assessments frozen since 1993
The assessment of forest properties was set in legislation at $100 per hectare in 1993 and has not changed since, even though they now routinely sell for 10 times that amount and more.
"We're not concerned with the overall market value of those properties because legislation dictates [their worth]," said Stephen Ward, the province's director of property valuation. "We don't look at any woodland."
New Brunswick property tax records show more than 400 forest properties were bought in the province last year and all but 14 of those were sold for more than their assessed value.
Sold for 30 times more than assessment
On Fredericton's Currie Avenue, one forest property is assessed by the province at $5,000 even though it was sold for 30 times that [$150,000] in December. It's a sharp contrast to the hard line the province is taking on the assessment of Wilson's apartment building on the other side of the city.
- Tax records show huge jumps in assessments in province
- 'It doesn't make sense': Large property tax hikes defy law
- A picture of confusion: No clear explanation for wonky tax bills
- 'I almost passed out when I read it': Landlords hit with big tax hikes
There are about three million hectares of privately owned forest property in New Brunswick including very large landowners like J.D. Irving Ltd. [725,000 hectares] and Acadian Timber [308,000] and thousands of small woodlot owners and all benefit from undervalued assessments.
"The way they're taxing it is basically for owning the land itself and not for the inventory that's on it," said Clark. "Do you charge property tax on the inventory that's in a store or just on the store property itself?"