What is Property Taxation?
- Property taxation is the most important single source of municipal revenue. The amount of money that is to be raised through property taxes is set by council each year. The tax rate, together with the assessed value of the property, determines the amount of property tax payable each year. Property tax and assessment notices are mailed together in April or May and cover the calendar year from January 1 to December 31. Payment of property taxes is due July 31.
How are my property taxes calculated?
How do I know that my taxes are fair?
- Property assessment promotes fairness by ensuring that two similar properties within a similar geographic area will be assessed and taxed at the same rate. All property values change over time, but not all change at the same rate. Some properties increase in value faster than others. If assessed values were not updated as market values changed, some taxpayers would soon pay a disproportionate share of taxes compared to current values. To maintain a fair sharing in the tax rate between properties, assessed values must be up-to-date.
Where does all the tax money go?
- The Town's tax revenue goes into a general revenue fund, which is used to pay for all the operating expenses of the Town that are not covered by provincial grants, user fees or other revenue sources. Many of the services, such as street and parks maintenance, fire protection, traffic lights and streetlights are provided on the basis of Town-wide standards, and all citizens in every area of the town enjoy the benefits derived from these services.
What does my tax bill cover?
- There are three main components to your tax bill: the municipal portion, seniors lodges and the school portion. Within the municipal portion, there may be a number of sub-elements: local improvement taxes; general municipal services;
The Seniors Lodge is forwarded to the Westlock Foundation to support senior’s accommodations.
The school portion, or education taxes, is collected by the municipality on behalf of the provincial government, and the funds are distributed to the public and separate school systems operating in the Town of Westlock.
What about education taxes?
- In Alberta, education is a provincial program. The taxes that fund the program are raised and distributed on a provincial basis. Education property tax dollars are pooled in the Alberta School Foundation Fund and then allocated among school boards throughout the province. This system of pooling taxes from all municipalities enables the Province to provide all students with a standard level of education, no matter where they live. Each year, the Province calculates the amount that every Alberta municipality must contribute towards the public education system.
- The calculation is based on a formula that takes into account the equalized assessment in each municipality and the provincial uniform education property tax rate. The Province notifies municipalities of the amount of education taxes they are required to collect. Each municipality then establishes a local education property tax rate. This tax rate is calculated by dividing the required amount by the municipality’s current taxable assessment.
The municipality then applies its local education tax rate to the assessed value of each property to determine the amount of education taxes each property owner is required to pay for the year. Municipalities include the education property tax on their annual property tax bills to property owners. Municipalities collect education tax dollars from their ratepayers and sends them to the Province, and, in some instances, to a separate school board.
Why do I pay for school taxes when I don't have children going to school?
- The prosperity and general well being of society, or the community we live in, is directly related to the education of its people. For that reason, the costs of education are deemed to be the responsibility of all of society. Your education, for example, if received in Canada, was largely paid for by the previous generation of taxpayers.
Provincial legislation specifies that the funds for schools are to be collected by municipalities. The Province (public) and separate school boards requisition revenue they require from the Town, and the total levy is distributed among taxpayers through their property tax bills. People who do not own property contribute indirectly through their rental or lease payments.
When are my property taxes due?
- Property tax payments are due July 31 of each year. Tax and assessment notifications are mailed out in April/May each year. The due date is specified on the tax notices and is also advertised for two weeks in the local newspaper (Westlock News).
How and where can I pay my taxes?
- There are several ways you can pay your taxes:
Pre-Authorized Payment Plan: allows you to pay your taxes in monthly installments via an automatic debit from your bank account. Your installments will be adjusted on an annual basis to reflect any tax changes for the current year. You may start on the monthly payment plan any time during the year, provided you have no outstanding arrears.
Financial Institutions: payments can be made at most financial institutions in Westlock. Telephone or computer banking may also be available with your bank.
By Mail: send your cheque, payable to "Town of Westlock," to:
Town of Westlock
10003 – 106 Street
Westlock, AB T7P 2K3
Do not send cash through the mail.
In Person: you can make your payment at the Town Office (10003 – 106 Street) during regular business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday). We accept cash, cheques, money order, draft and direct debit. Please reference your Tax Roll Number. Note that credit cards are NOT accepted.
Drop Box Payments: drop off your payments in the After Hours' Drop Box, located beside the main entrance at the Town office (10003 – 106 Street).
Can I make monthly payments?
- The Town of Westlock offers a pre-authorized payment program to those taxpayers, residential and commercial, who wish to pay their taxes on a monthly basis. Many people find it difficult to make a single payment that comes due once a year. Monthly installments break your property tax into smaller amounts, which make it easier to budget for.
- Equal monthly installments, via pre-authorized debit, calculated at the prior year tax levy, divided by the number of equal months remaining of the subsequent year, are processed on the last business day of each month. Supplementary tax levies for property improvements will be billed separately and do not form part of this program.
To join, simply complete the application form, attach a VOID cheque and send or deliver to the Town of Westlock. Citizens can enroll or cancel at any time of the year for no penalty or fee.
Property Tax Payment Pre-Authorization Form
You may withdraw from the plan at any time by simply notifying the Town in writing of your intention at least two weeks before the next payment date.
What if I don't pay my taxes?
- In the event that current taxes, including local improvement levies, requisitions and other amounts appearing as charges on the current year’s Property Tax Notice, remain unpaid after the 31st day of July in the year in which the same were first levied, there shall be added a penalty as follows:
In the amount of four (4%) percent on August 1st of the year in
which they were first levied
In the amount of eight (8% percent on September 1st of the year
in which they were first levied
and any amount so added shall form a part of the current taxes as a lien against the land under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act.
- In the event that taxes remain unpaid after the 31st day of December of the year in which the property taxes were first levied, there shall be added a penalty of fifteen (15%) percent on the 1st day of January of each of the next succeeding years thereafter so long as the property tax arrears remain unpaid, and every amount so added shall form a part of a lien against the land under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act.
The Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA)
requires municipalities to inform the Land Titles office of properties where taxes are in arrears for two years or more. Properties in arrears are placed on a Tax Recovery List, and if taxes remain unpaid, these properties may be sold at public auction.
The Town relies on the collection of property taxes to provide services, to make improvements to its infrastructure and to meet its financial obligations. The Provincial Government recognizes municipalities’ reliance on property tax revenue, so to ensure that everyone who is required to pay municipal taxes does so, legislation has been passed that ensures the municipality can collect the taxes that are due. The legislation gives the municipality the authority to enforce payment of legally levied taxes. The Province also recognizes that land or property represents a significant, if not the largest, investment for most Albertans. The MGA is drafted on the principle of protecting people’s interest in their property.
Under Part 10, Division 8, of the MGA, the Town of Westlock is authorized to implement a tax recovery process, by establishing timelines and procedures to recover unpaid property taxes. This may include the possession and sale of properties, including distribution of surplus sale proceeds and final disposition of the parcel, as necessary. The Town takes all reasonable actions toward recovery of property tax arrears, while ensuring the tax recovery process being followed is fair and reasonable to both the property owner(s) and the Town and within the authority provided under the MGA.
Under the MGA, the Town can file a Tax Recovery Notification against the title of any property where taxes are in arrears for two years or more. All costs incurred in the tax recovery process are charged against the property on which the notification is filed. If taxes remain unpaid following the filing of a Tax Recovery Notification, the property will be offered for tax recovery sale by public auction.