Topographic maps are among the most commonly used map types, however, their complex and information-rich designs depicting natural, human-made and cultural features make them difficult to read. Regardless of their complexity, spatial planners make extensive use of topographic maps in their work. On the other hand, various studies suggest that map literacy among the development planning professionals in South Africa is not very high. The widespread use of topographic maps combined with the low levels of map literacy presents challenges for effective development planning. In this paper we address some of these challenges by developing a specialized task taxonomy based on systematically assessed map literacy levels; and conducting an empirical experiment with topographic maps to evaluate our task taxonomy. In such empirical studies if non-realistic tasks are used, the results of map literacy tests may be skewed. Furthermore, experience and familiarity with the studied map type play a role in map literacy. There is thus a need to develop map literacy tests aimed at planners specifically. We developed a taxonomy of realistic map reading tasks typically executed during the planning process. The taxonomy defines six levels tasks of increasing difficulty and complexity, ranging from recognising symbols to extracting knowledge. We hypothesized that competence in the first four levels indicates functional map literacy. In this paper, we present results from an empirical experiment with 49 map literate participants solving a subset of tasks from the first four levels of the taxonomy with a topographic map. Our findings suggest that the proposed taxonomy is a good reference for evaluating topographic map literacy. Participants solved the tasks on all four levels as expected and we therefore conclude that the experiment based on the first four levels of the taxonomy successfully determined the functional map literacy of the participants. We plan to continue the study for the remaining levels, repeat the experiments with a group of map illiterate participants to confirm that the taxonomy can also be used to determine map illiteracy.