FAQ: Property Assessment
What is an annual assessment?
An annual assessment is a complete revaluation of all properties within a municipal jurisdiction. In Alberta, residential, commercial and industrial property is assessed using the market value approach while properties that do not sell, on a regular basis are valued using a regulated assessment process laid out in Provincial Legislation. Taxpayers are notified of their property’s updated assessed value on their property assessment notice.
Why have annual assessments?
In accordance with provincial legislation, municipal governments use the value of a person’s property as the measure for calculating taxes.
Someone who owns an expensive property will pay more towards the operation of the municipality than does someone who owns a more modest property.
Over time, property values change and market values shift. Provincial legislation, through the Municipal Government Act, requires the municipality to reassess property values on an annual basis to ensure that taxpayers pay their fair share of property taxes. There can be shifts in taxes between properties as the result of a general assessment and differing market changes.
So, if your property value has grown at a slower rate than the average, your share of the municipality’s property taxes will be smaller. If your property’s value has increased faster than the average, you will pay a larger share.
What will affect my assessment on my home?
Municipal assessors evaluate properties based on a number of variables including:
- lot and home size
- finished basement
- construction quality
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo properties are prepared with the aid of a computerized appraisal system developed in accordance with international standards.
For more information, contact us at:
3rd Floor, Jubilee Centre, 9909 Franklin Ave.
Fort McMurray, AB T9H 2K4
How is an accurate assessment of property made?
Each property in the Municipality is inspected inside and out at one time or another. New homes are inspected at completion and existing homes are inspected periodically. The sheer magnitude of numbers prohibits the re-inspection of all properties on an annual basis. However, when the assessor is made aware of improvements or upgrades, a full inspection may take place.
Property tax assessment can only be fair if the assessor is aware of all factors that contribute to value. This information includes lot size, dwelling size, dwelling type, quality, condition, layout, shape, age, number of baths, basement finish, location, parking, decks, upgrades and any other special features that contribute to value.
Legislation allows the assessor to enter and inspect any property in the Municipality for assessment purposes. These inspections are essential in order to ensure that taxpayers are assessed fairly and that each bears an equitable share of the municipal tax burden.
What is an assessor?
An assessor is someone who determines the value of land, buildings, businesses, structures and certain types of equipment for property tax purposes.
Assessors determine these values by:
- Inspecting the different types of properties including farm land, single family residences, hotels, office buildings, industrial sites and facilities
- Collecting and analyzing the information that relates to the value of a property (for example, information on sales, rental income, costs and market conditions)
- Classifying and estimating property values according to the assessment legislation using valuation techniques and data.
Is it necessary for an assessor to view the inside of my building?
To make a proper assessment of a building, it is desirable that an assessor sees the inside as well as the outside. If the assessor is unable to inspect the interior, the assessment will be based on existing assessment data, knowledge of similar buildings and the assessor’s professional judgment. Provincial legislation allows the assessor to enter and inspect any building in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo for assessment purposes. Assessors will be able to provide appropriate identification.
What if I refuse to let the assessor enter my building?
A refusal of inspection may impact your right to appeal your assessment.
What is an assessment notice?
The Municipality mails an assessment notice annually, identifying to each taxpayer the property’s market value and other information recorded on the assessment roll.
The assessment roll lists all properties in the municipality along with their assessed market value. The assessment roll is public information and is available for your review at the Jubilee Centre and community offices located in Anzac, Conklin, Fort Chipewyan and Janvier.
When reviewing an assessment notice, taxpayers should check the following:
- That the assessment is a reasonable estimate of what the property would have sold for as of July 1 of last year.
- That the assessment is reasonable in relation to other properties in the neighborhood or area.
The market value on an assessment notice may differ from that shown on a bank mortgage appraisal or a real estate appraisal. This is because private appraisers evaluate your property according to market conditions as of the day they complete the appraisal.
An assessment from the Municipality reflects property value as of July 1 of last year and the physical condition of the property as of Dec. 31 of last year.
What should I do if I have not received my assessment notice?
If you have not received your notice by the end of the third week in March, please call 780-743-7900 or 1-800-973-9663 and we will have another notice issued.
Why should I review my assessment notice?
The assessed value of your property will be used to establish the amount of tax billed. Any error on your Property Assessment Notice could potentially impact the amount of property tax billed. Tax rates are not disputable, so it is important to ensure that your assessed value is accurate before the 4:30 p.m. deadline on May 1.
For further information regarding your Property Assessment, please contact an assessor via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 780-743-7900.
If your discussion with an assessor doesn’t resolve your concerns, you may submit a formal written complaint to the Clerk of the Assessment Review Board. The final day to register a complaint with the Clerk is May 1.
For more information on filing an assessment complaint, contact the Clerk at 780-743-7001 or toll-free at 1-800-973-9663.
Can I see the information the assessor used to prepare my property assessment?
An assessed person may contact the Assessment Office to see or receive sufficient information to show how the assessment of that person's property was prepared.
Can I see other property assessments?
Under section 300 of the Municipal Government Act, an assessed person may ask the municipality to let the assessed person see or receive a summary of the assessment of any assessed property in the municipality.
The summary of an assessment includes information such as:
- A description of the parcel
- Description of the land and any improvements
- Size of parcel of land
- Key factors, components and variables of the valuation model applied in preparing the assessment of a property.
The assessor has a legislative responsibility to ensure that confidentiality of information is not breached when providing information on assessments to third parties.
What is market value?
For assessment purposes, market value is the most probable selling price of a property in a competitive and open market. It assumes that the buyer and the seller are acting prudently and knowledgeably, allowing sufficient time for the sale, and assumes that the transaction is not affected by undue pressures.
Why are assessments based on market value?
The Province included market value assessment in the Municipal Government Act because market value assessment is widely considered to be the fairest system of distributing the property tax burden.
Assessments based on market value are easy to understand because taxpayers can easily relate to the market value of their property and assessors and taxpayers can readily check assessments by making comparisons with recent sales and assessments of similar properties in the neighborhood.
How is market value determined?
Market value is determined using a variety of acceptable appraisal methods. Establishing market value for residential properties is accomplished by comparing the property to be valued with comparable sales in the neighborhood. It is the assessor’s job to select and analyze comparable sales in order to arrive at a value for taxation purposes.
What affects market value?
There are many factors that affect the market value of a property:
- supply and demand for property types or locations
- community, location, neighborhood
- house size/type of construction
- lot size and condition
Why is my assessed value different than the value shown on my bank mortgage appraisal or real estate appraisal?
Private appraisers evaluate property according to market conditions as of the day they complete the appraisal. The Assessor must estimate the property value as of July 1 the year prior to the tax year but must reflect the condition and circumstances of the property as of Dec. 31 of that year.
Why does my assessed value change from year to year?
Provincial legislation states that the municipality must value all property each year. Auditors from the provincial government review the assessments prepared by the Assessment Office annually. These detailed audits ensure proper assessment valuation practices are followed.
I do not live in the property I own. Can you mail my assessment notice to a different mailing address?
Yes. Please fill out the Online Change of Address Form.
What can be done if taxpayers disagree with the municipality’s market value assessment of their property?
Disagreement with the market value assessment of property, or property that may be improperly classified should be directed to Assessment and Taxation at 780-743-7900.
The department’s offices are located on the 3rd floor of the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray. Regular business hours are from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Municipal personnel will review the assessment in question with the taxpayer. If the Municipality determines that the assessment requires a change, it will be revised.
What is the next step if an agreement is not reached?
If there is still disagreement with a property’s assessed value or classification after meeting with municipal personnel, a complaint can be filed with the Assessment Review Board. A written complaint must be delivered to the Municipal Office by no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 1. Please refer to the back of your assessment notice for more information on submitting a complaint.
What is an Assessment Review Board and what does it do?
The Assessment Review Board is usually comprised of one to three members responsible for hearings and rulings on assessment complaints. The Board ensures that the complainant (the taxpayer) and the assessor receive a fair and impartial hearing. The Board hears evidence to determine if a property has been valued or classified correctly, or to determine if exemptions were properly applied.
Board members from the region are appointed by Regional Council. The Assessment Review Board is independent of the Municipality and the Assessment Office.
Can the Assessment Review Board hear complaints about property taxes and can they make changes to taxes?
No. The Assessment Review Board has no jurisdiction or control over taxes or tax rates. Tax levels are set by the taxing jurisdictions, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the Province of Alberta, to generate revenue to pay for local services. The board will hear written complaints regarding property assessment.
Where do my tax dollars go?
Your tax dollars fund municipal operations, provincial education and two senior citizen lodges – Rotary House and Ayabaskaw Home. The amount you pay for each of these services is outlined on your Tax Notice. It is important to note that Council only sets the municipal portion of the bill, and not the amount for education and/or the senior citizen lodges.
How are taxes calculated?
The assessed value, multiplied by the tax rate, equals the tax owing. The tax rates will be established by Council. The taxation year is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.