For the past couple of years, landowners in the state of Texas have had the opportunity to claim a wildlife tax exemption on their property. Property owners have been provided this opportunity due in part to the booming wildlife recreation industry in Texas. Many landowners in Texas realize more income from recreational enterprises than from traditional agricultural enterprises. The Wildlife Management Use exemption provides an opportunity for Texas landowners to actively manage wildlife on their land. At this time Oklahomans do not have this tax option. Maybe a look across the river will stir interest.
Although large property owners can benefit by receiving a tax break for their wildlife management activities, the Wildlife Management Use exemption should be good for small property owners as well. Often times, small property owners engaged in traditional agricultural practices are hindered in their ability to properly manage their resources due to the agricultural practice itself. A common problem small property owners face is the overstocking of livestock. This is usually the result of trying to maintain a minimum number of cattle for a viable livestock operation. The Wildlife Management Use exemption may provide a tax option for these landowners (if they are interested in wildlife management) to properly manage their resources, maybe even without livestock.
The Texas Tax Code (Section 23.51(2)) includes wildlife management in the definition of agricultural uses of land.
The Tax Code (Section 23.51(7)) also defines wildlife management as: Actively using land that at the time the wildlife management began was appraised as qualified open space land under this subchapter in at least three of the following ways to propagate a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering, population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine, or recreation:
Therefore, the first requirement to qualify for a Wildlife Management Use exemption is that the property must have been qualified and appraised as agricultural land during the year before the year the owner changes to Wildlife Management Use. Remember that the tax code recognizes wildlife management as an agricultural use.
The second requirement is that the land must be used to generate a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous (native) wild animals. Land may also qualify if it is instrumental in supporting a sustaining breeding, migrating or wintering population. In other words, birds or other animals do not need to permanently reside on the land, provided that they migrate across it or use it seasonally.
The third requirement is that the wildlife population must be produced for human use. This may include food, medicine, or recreation. Recreational uses can be active or passive and include hunting, photography, bird watching, hiking and other activities for pleasure or sport. Enjoyment derived from land ownership and managing wildlife is also a qualifying recreational use.
Habitat control, erosion control, predator control, providing supplemental water, providing supplemental food, providing shelter and making census counts are approved wildlife management activities. For land to qualify under Wildlife Management Use, the landowner must implement at least three of these seven approved practices.
If you are contemplating a change in the tax use status of your property, you have until May 1 to notify the chief appraiser. This must be done in writing in the year in which the owner wants to qualify under Wildlife Management Use.
For more detailed information contact the Comptroller, Property Tax Division, P.O. Box 13528, Austin TX 78711-3528 and ask for a copy of the "Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use" and the "Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land." Or, for those of you who are electronically inclined, information can be found at window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/proptax.html.