Disposing of agricultural land - administrative burdens

The Bulgarian Constitution defines land as a fundamental national asset, which enjoys particular protection from the state and society. This determines the peculiarities of the legal regulation of agricultural land, which in principle should be used for agricultural purposes only, although some exceptions do exist. The legal status of agricultural land is laid down mainly in the Agricultural Land Ownership and Use Act (“ALOUA”) and the Farming Lease Act (“FLA”).

The legal definition of agricultural land can be found in Article 2 of the ALOUA. In accordance with the provision, this is land, intended for agricultural production, which:

    1) is not located within urbanised territories (settlements and other populated areas) determined by a detailed land-use plan, or by an end point of an urbanised territory

    2) is not included in the forest reserve

    3) is not built up by edifices of: industrial or other enterprises, recreational or health establishments, religious communities or other public organisations, neither it is a courtyard, nor a storage facility of the above-mentioned buildings

    4) is not occupied by open mines and quarries, by energy, irrigation, transportation facilities or by other common facilities, nor is it adjacent to such facilities

    Pursuant to the Local Taxes and Fees Act (“LTFA”), Agricultural land is not subject to taxation, unless it is built up. In this case, the built-up area and its adjacent terrain are subject to taxation. This peculiarity in the tax treatment presupposes some special rules with regard to the tax evaluation certificates of agricultural land:

      ► Unlike the standard tax evaluation certificates, the certificates referring to non-built agricultural lands have a longer term of validity - until the end of the current year, regardless of when their issuance is requested[1].

      ► The procedure for issuing a tax evaluation certificate for agricultural land requires that a separate special certificate of characteristics of the property be obtained beforehand. Precisely this feature causes some difficulties in the cases of disposal of agricultural land.

      To dispose of agricultural land, as a minimum it is necessary to present to the relevant notary:

      - documents legitimising the seller as the owner

      - a sketch of the land

      - a tax evaluation certificate

      The first two documents aim to determine the property, its owner and its location. The tax evaluation certificate is issued for the purposes of levying inheritance tax and property acquisition tax in order to determine the state and notarial fees in the proceedings under the Civil Procedure Code. [2] Hence, the tax evaluation certificate serves as a basis for calculating all taxes and fees due when disposing of agricultural land.

      The required documents for obtaining a tax evaluation for agricultural land are:

      - a title deed

      - a sketch of the property

      - a certificate of characteristics of the property

      Depending on whether or not a cadastral map has entered into force for the property, the sketch, respectively the certificate for characteristics of the property, is issued according to the location of the property:

      - by the respective local office of the Agriculture Department (when there is no cadastral map) or

      - by the respective geodesy, cartography and cadastre office (when there is a cadastral map)

      Currently, for almost all pieces of agricultural land located on the territory of Bulgaria, with a few exceptions, there is a valid cadastral map. This is probably the reason why in 2019 the service "Issuance of a certificate for characteristics of the property" was entirely transferred within the jurisdiction of the Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Agency. Consequently, even in the cases where the issuance of a certificate for characteristics falls within the jurisdiction of the respective municipal office of the Department of Agriculture, the latter uses the services of the Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Agency for the issuance.

      The certificate for characteristics of the property is issued for a period of seven or three working days, depending on the service – BGN 20 for a standard order and or BGN 40 for a quick order. The certificate contains information on:

      ► the permanent designation of the territory

      ► the manner of permanent use of the territory

      ► surface area

      ► land category

      ► location in relation to the construction boundaries of the settlement in which it is located

      ► location in relation to road networks with permanent pavement

      The last two are the only additional data compared to the cadastral sketch of the property. Nevertheless, while the value of the standard service for issuing an agricultural land sketch is BGN 5, the value for issuing a certificate of characteristics exceeds this amount three times. Therefore, the certificate is an unnecessary additional requirement, with the obvious sole purpose of increasing the administrative burden on owners of agricultural land. Besides, such a certificate is not required for other types of real estate.

      All owners of agricultural land should take into account the requirement for a certificate of characteristics when disposing of their property, so they can be prepared in advance and have sufficient time to obtain all the necessary documents. Planning the issuance of a certificate of characteristics is especially important in cases where the properties are located in a settlement other than the usual residence / registered office of the owner (regardless of the possibilities for electronic services).

      [1] Argument based on Article 3, paragraph 4 of Annex No.2 to the LTFA

      [2] Article 3, paragraph 2 of Annex No.2 to the LTFA