Ontario Agriculture

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My OMAFRA troubles and my advice to avoid them

Its never nice to hear of someone facing problems, but its useful to take advantage of the opportunity to avoid them yourself.  My opinion of OMAFRA is greatly tainted, but I am open minded enough to realize most problems could have been avoided.  

At issue is the loss of the farm tax rebate which holds municipal tax rates to, well, basically the equivalent of where they alway were.  Without the rebate, taxes quadruple.  As it stands today, my issue is only with the 2012 tax year.  So how did this happen? Well I bought a farm in 2011, my first farm.  To qualify for the tax rebate, you must have a valid FBR number (Farm Business Registration).  In previous years I didn't have an FBR number, I didn't have any land and the number serves no purpose otherwise.  I was able to farm without this, as my father had an exemption to the requirement for religious reasons applied to the farm land.  That sets the stage.

My first mistake - rather than apply for an exemption, i decided its not worth the effort, i will just conform to the system. Unfortunately, this came after September 30, which is the last day you can apply for a 2011 FBR number.  So although I contacted Agricorp in 2011, i was told i had to wait until Jan 3 to apply, which I did.  And with a bit of hassle to prove my  2011 farm activities grossed over $7,000, I was granted a 2012 FBR number.

Well, the 2012 tax rate rebate is based on the 2011 FBR number.  So when I asked OMAFRA to grant me a startup exemption, which would allow the 2012 tax rate to qualify without the prior FBR, it was denied.  Why? I sold too much grain in 2010, it was over $7,000.  I should have applied for an FBR in 2010, even though I didn't own any land.  So my families help by allowing me to ease into farming caused an issue that would not rear its head for several years.  But it could have been avoided had I applied for an exemption (and been granted) or got an FBR number.  

Now that OMAFRA will not recognize me as a startup, they can not change the tax qualification.  So they send me off to the ARB (Assessment Review Board) to file an appeal.  Its amazing that no such appeal exists in OMAFRA, if you don't like what they say, you must go through another government agency.  

In my first conversations with the ARB, I was instructed to send a letter to the chair for reconsideration.  Which was promptly denied and I was told to talk to OMAFRA.  Yea, thats where I just came from.  

So OMAFRA sends me back to the ARB, this time with a better explanation as to the process I need to follow.

So at this point, I must submit an appeal, which is not free of charge, to get this resolved, if they will even resolve it.

My advice to the new farmer in Ontario, get the FBR before you buy any land or at the very least the start up exemption.  By waiting until after, your path is littered with deadlines and forms and costs you don't need.

In defence of the people on the other end of the phone, they have all been polite and tried to help, several did note I shouldn't need to go through all this, but thats just the way it is sometimes.  

I farm because I am a farmer, I just can't stand that the government has to be so involved in this. But they have the upper hand.  All I can hope is it works out in the end.

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