By Maren McInnes
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to require new property owners to submit an application for assessment upon change of ownership was considered by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee last Tuesday.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, proposed HB222, the Farmland Assessment Act Amendments, to prevent the automatic status change of farmland upon ownership change by tax sale or foreclosure.
“Clearly tax sales and foreclosures are not the ideal situation for anybody. It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Howard Headlee, representing the Utah Bankers Association. “We just feel that the loss of this farmland status happening automatically just makes matters worse.”
The Farmland Assessment Act (FAA) is commonly known as the Greenbelt Act, although Noel acknowledges the word “greenbelt” is not found in the text. The purpose of the Act is to allow qualifying agricultural property to be assessed and taxed base on its productive capability rather than the prevailing market value. However, current law allows the assessor to automatically alter the status of the land to its more productive capability should the new owner fail to submit an application maintain the property’s prior status.
Rep. Noel’s bill would put the burden on the assessor before the reclassification could take place. That is, the assessor would have to request the application, and the owner then submit in response to the request.
Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, expressed concerns with the bill. He suggested that if people inherit land, change the use of that land, and are not required to submit an application, perhaps they could take advantage of the FAA. He was concerned that it would be up to the county assessor to find the owner and require the application.
Noel replied that this bill only covers tax sales and foreclosures, and he explained that the counties he represents are largely farmland assessed land, sometimes around 80 or 90 percent. Since changes due to tax sales or foreclosure are rare, the assessor’s additional burden will be negligible. Noel said that he would fix any problems with the language in those lines if need be.
The representatives voted unanimously to pass out the bill with a favorable recommendation.