A question that agricultural economists and wildlife specialists here at the Noble Foundation frequently are asked from Texas landowners is "What does it take for my property to qualify for the wildlife property tax exemption?" The easiest answer is to refer them to the Texas Property Tax Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use to read the extensive explanation of requirements needed to obtain wildlife management property tax exemption. However, after a little reading, most people become lost in all of the associated legal and tax verbiage. The intent of this article is to cut through some of the complicated wording to help those with an interest get a quicker start.
The amount of land managed for wildlife in Texas has exploded in the past 20 years and is increasing in other states across the country as well. For many farms and ranches in Texas, it's a wildlife enterprise that allows the family to remain in agriculture. Prior to 1995, wildlife management was not considered an agricultural use of property. However, in 1995, Texas voters approved Proposition 11, allowing land with specific management practices for wildlife to be considered agricultural use. This amendment is outlined in the Texas Constitution, Section 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal, Article VIII. The requirements for the 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal can be found in the Texas Tax Code, Chapter 23, Subchapter D or on the Window on State Government Web site.
For a Texas landowner interested in obtaining a wildlife property tax exemption, the property must currently be approved for an agricultural property tax exemption. Then the landowner must complete Form 1-d-1, elect the wildlife management option and attach Form PWD 885-W7000 Wildlife Management Plan. These forms can be found at: 1-D-1 Open Space Agricultural Valuation Wildlife Management Plan and Application for 1-D-1 (Open Source) Agricultural Appraisal.
If the property does not qualify for the agricultural appraisal, a five-out-of-seven-years qualification period is required to gain an agricultural tax exemption. Below are some of the qualifications listed in the Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land for property to meet agricultural tax exemptions:
- It must be devoted to an agricultural use and the operation must have a degree of intensity that is typical to the area (degree of intensity is set/determined by the chief appraiser);
- Other property connected with the land is not eligible
- Other property: Minerals, products of agricultural operation and improvements;
- In five of the last seven years, the land must have been used for agriculture;
- Land used as an ecological laboratory by colleges or universities may qualify for agricultural appraisal; and
- Land owned by a foreigner is in-eligible as well as some land located within city limits.
If the property is qualified 1-d-1 wildlife management land, the landowner must choose and implement at least three of seven specific management practices (developed from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and adopted by the Comptroller in 2001) to maintain their wildlife management property tax exemption. These practices (listed below) are deemed as ways to "propagate a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine, or recreation."
- Habitat control;
- Erosion control;
- Predator control;
- Providing supplemental supplies of water;
- Providing supplemental supplies of food;
- Providing shelters; and
- Making census counts to determine population.
Landowners should also note that if they stop using the land for agriculture, there is a "rollback" tax penalty. This penalty is in place to keep owners from paying lower property taxes on land that may be intended for non-agricultural purposes in the future. The rollback tax equals the difference between the taxes the owner actually paid in the five years preceding the change in use and the taxes the owner would have paid on his property's market value. Be sure to consult with your tax accountant before making changes to your agricultural property tax exemption.
For more information about agriculture and wildlife property tax exemption in Texas, refer to: Texas Property Tax Code, Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land and Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use.
Scott Boyd is a senior market analyst for Koch Industries, P.O. Box 2256, Wichita, Kan. 67201