Mass Valuation of Land in the Russian Federation
The collapse of communism in the early 1990s launched an era of political and economic reforms in Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union that introduced democracy and the free market economy to countries that previously had no experience with either of these concepts. In Russia privatization of land was one of the first items on the reform agenda, and by the end of 1992 the Russian Parliament had adopted the federal law On the Payment for Land. This law set normative land values differentiated by regions to be used for taxation, as well as a basis for land rent and purchase. At the time the country had no land market, so this was considered a very progressive measure. Lands that were previously held in public ownership were rapidly distributed to individuals, and by 1998 some 129 million hectares of land were privately held by some 43 million landowners. Introduction of private ownership rights in land also meant the introduction of the land tax, since owners or users of land plots became eligible to pay for their real property assets.
Economic reforms in Russia were accompanied by inflation that ran thousands of percent annually. To maintain revenue yields, local and regional authorities adjusted normative land values accordingly. As land market activity started to develop in the mid-1990s, some of these authorities used market price information to make land value adjustments. As a result land taxes became absolutely inconsistent with the economic situation, and tax amounts were not comparable for similar properties located in different jurisdictions.
By the late 1990s the land tax system had developed faults that required tax reform on a nationwide scale. The basic outline of the tax reform included the following features:
- The land tax will become a local tax.
- While floating tax rates will be established by local governments, the maximum possible tax rates will be fixed by federal legislation.
- The federal government will develop rules and procedures for mass valuation of land plots.
- The tax base will be the cadastral value of land plots.
- Land cadastre authorities will provide information on taxable objects and their taxable land values to tax and revenue authorities.
Reform of the land tax is seen as part of a wider property tax reform. The current property tax system in Russia includes a number of taxes: individual property tax; enterprise property tax; land tax; and real property tax. While the first three are operational, the fourth tax has been tested as an experiment since 1997 in two cities, Novgorod Veliky and Tver (Malme and Youngman 2001, Chapter 6). It is expected that when Russia is in a position to introduce the real property tax nationally, the first three taxes will be canceled.
In 1999 the Land Cadastre Service of Russia, a land administration authority of the federal government, was delegated the responsibility to develop mass valuation methods and to implement the country’s first mass valuation of all land. The government chose mass valuation, identifying the sales comparison, income and cost approaches as the basic valuation models that needed to be developed. Land is valued at its site value as if it were vacant.
Implementation of a mass valuation system has been constrained by the lack of reliable land market data, however. The housing market is the only developed market in Russia that can be characterized by a large number of sales transactions. These transactions are spread unevenly throughout the country, with large cities characterized by many transactions and high prices for apartments, whereas small towns and settlements have few examples of real estate sales. The national land market recorded some 5.5 million transactions annually, with only about 6 percent of them being actual buying and selling transactions. Official data from land registration authorities could not be used as a data source because transacting parties often conceal the true market price to avoid paying transfer taxes.
This lack of reliable market data has forced the developers of mass valuation models to identify other factors that may influence the land market. The model developed for valuation of urban land included some 90 layers of information that were geo-referenced to digital land cadastre maps of cities and towns. Apart from available market information, these data layers included features of physical infrastructure such as transport, public utilities, schools, stores and other structures. Environmental factors also are taken into consideration.
Mass valuation methods in Russia have identified 14 types of urban land use that can be assigned to each cadastral block. Thus, the model can set the tax base according to the current or highest and best land use. The actual tax base established for each land plot is calculated as the price of a square meter of land in a cadastral block multiplied by the area of the plot.
It took one year of development and model testing and two years of further work to complete the cadastral valuation of urban land throughout Russia. Actual valuation results suggest that the model works accurately with lands occupied by the housing sector. The correlation between actual market data and mass valuation results is between 0.6 and 0.7 on a scale of 0 to 1.0, with greater accuracy in areas where the land market is better developed.
Cadastral valuation of agricultural land is based on the income approach, since availability of agricultural land market information is extremely limited. Legislation allowing the sale of agricultural land became effective in early 2002. The data used to value agricultural land included information on soils and actual farm production figures over the last 30 years. Mass valuation of forested lands was also based on the income approach. Russian land law also identifies a special group of industrial lands located outside the city limits that includes industrial sites, roads, railroads, and energy and transport facilities. These lands proved to be a difficult subject for mass valuation because there are so many unique types of structures and objects on them; individual valuation is often applied to them instead.
Over the past four years, some 95 percent of Russia’s territory has been valued using mass valuation methodology. The Federal Land Cadastre Service continues to refine and improve its methods in preparation for the enactment of relevant legislation authorizing the introduction of a new value-based land tax. During this period, the Cadastre Service organized a Workshop on Mass Valuation Systems of Land (Real Estate) for Taxation Purposes, in Moscow in 2002, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. It also assembled a delegation for the Lincoln Institute’s course Introducing a Market Value-Based Mass Appraisal System for Taxation of Real Property, in Vilnius in 2003 (see related article).
Alexey L. Overchuk is deputy chief of the Federal Land Cadastre Service of Russia and deputy chairman of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Working Party for Land Administration.
Malme, Jane H. and Joan M. Youngman. 2001. The Development of Property Taxation in Economies in Transition: Case Studies from Central and Eastern Europe. Washington, DC: The World Bank. Available at http://www1.worldbank.org/wbiep/decentralization/library9/malme_propertytax.pdf