If you own LAND, there are ways to save on your property tax bill. There are two programs that landowners can enroll in. One is the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) and the other is Conservation Use Covenant

Conservation Use Covenant – Owners of agricultural land, timberland and environmentally sensitive land may qualify for conservation use assessment under O.C.G.A. Section 48-5-7.4. The Georgia Revenue Commissioner has the responsibility of annually determining the values for ad valorem tax purposes of this type land and publishing rules and regulations to help county tax assessors determine the values of property that qualify for conservation use assessment.

Conservation use property is assessed at 40% of current use value which gives a reduced assessment to the owner of this type property when compared to other property assessed at 40% of fair market value. This favorable tax treatment is designed to protect these property owners from being pressured by the property tax burden to convert their land from agricultural use to residential or commercial use, hence the name “conservation use” assessment. In return for the favorable tax treatment, the property owner must keep the land undeveloped in a qualifying use for a period of ten years or incur stiff penalties. The penalties are steep….Owners who breach their conservation use covenant must pay back to the taxing authorities twice the savings they have received over the life of the covenant up to the point it was breached.

These Conservation Use Covenants are regulated by the County Tax Assessor’s office. Therefore there may be some differences between counties i.e. some counties have a 10 acre minimum and some counties have a 25 acre minimum.

Qualifying Uses

  • Raising, harvesting, storing crops
  • Feeding, breeding, managing livestock or poultry
  • Producing plants, trees, fowl or animals by maintain not less than ten acres of wildlife habitat in its natural state or under management

Non-Qualifying Reasons

  • More than 2,000 acres
  • Can not lease to a person or entity who would not otherwise qualify (i.e. timber company)
  • No commercial structures
  • No rental structure
  • Can not have restrictive covenants which would prohibit the qualifying use
  • Must agree to a 10 year covenant to keep the property in a qualifying use

Forest Land Protection Act – The GEORGIA FOREST LAND PROTECTION ACT OF 2008 (O.C.G.A. 48-5-7.7) provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for property primarily used for the good faith subsistence or commercial production of trees, timber, or other wood and wood fiber products and excludes the entire value of any residence located on the property.

Forest land conservation use property may include land that has been certified as environmentally sensitive property by the Department of Natural Resources or property that is kept in accordance with a recognized sustainable forestry certification program.  The property may have secondary uses such as the promotion, preservation, or management of wildlife habitat; carbon sequestration in accordance with the Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; mitigation and conservation banking that results in restoration or conservation of wetlands and other natural resources; or the production and maintenance of ecosystem products and services such as, but not limited to, clean air and water.

This 15-year covenant agreement between the taxpayer and local board of assessors is limited to forest land tracts consisting of more than 200 acres when owned by an individual or individuals or by any entity registered to do business in Georgia.  Property that qualifies for forest land conservation use assessment and that is already receiving preferential or current use assessment can be changed one time to a forest land conservation use covenant without penalty.

Own property? No reason to pay too much in property taxes. Take advantage of these great programs!

 

Written By:

G. Kent Morris, RF, ALC

Registered Forester

Accredited Land Consultant

Associate Broker, Bickerstaff Parham Land LLC