I want to let you know about an important bill coming up for consideration in the Virginia General Assembly in January. This bill, HB 1470, would significantly reduce the tax benefits for land conservation at a time when we are losing many acres of farmland, forest and open space every day in Virginia. The land preservation tax credit plays a critical role in protecting our water, conserving the family farms that grow our food, saving special places that are so important to our cultural heritage and connecting our children to our most beautiful places. When the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission looked at the Commonwealth’s tax preferences in 2012, they highlighted the land preservation tax credit as one of the few tax credits that is effectively meeting its goals. It has been responsible for the conservation of over 741,000 acres of land since 2000. In spite of the Committee’s report, big cuts to the land preservation tax credit were made during the 2013 legislative session; the proposed legislation would effectively amount to a 50% cut in the last 4 years.
Here is a summary of HB 1470, introduced by Delegate Ware (R-65):
|Proposed Change: Reduce the total state-wide allocation of tax credits from $75 million to $50 million per year.
Implication: With fewer dollars available, less conservation will be happening in the coming years.
|Proposed Change: Puts a $2 million cap on the tax credits that can be claimed from a conservation easement donation.
Implication: Some of the biggest and most important properties won’t get protected. (ex. the protection of Natural Bridge)
|Proposed Change: Limits the amount of credits that can be claimed by an individual taxpayer to $20,000 per year going forward.
Implication: This limitation will make it more difficult for conservation easement donors to use Land Preservation Tax Credits.
|Proposed Change: Increase the tax credit transfer fee from 2% to 2.5%.
Implication: This additional cost reduces the landowner’s incentive to donate an easement, especially those who, like most working farmers, are not high income.
Before the General Assembly Session kicks off on January 11, 2017, let your Delegate and Senator know that you do not support this bill. Go to http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov to find the name and contact information for your State Senator and Delegate. Your voice can make a difference.
Executive Director Valley Conservation Council
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