CompassLive Science Shorts

Forest Landowners and State Property Tax Programs

looking up at trees with yellow leaves
The USDA Forest Service has a long history of conducting research and providing resources on tax laws relevant to forest landowners. Public domain photo.

Every state in the U.S. has a property tax program that lowers taxes for forest landowners.

Greg Frey and Stephanie Snyder of the USDA Forest Service, with Justin Meier, Michael Kilgore, and Charlie Blinn of the University of Minnesota recently published two papers that build on their previous analysis of all fifty state property tax programs.

The team examined characteristics of landowners who enroll in state forest property tax programs. Their research shows that when compared to landowners who are not enrolled:

  • Enrollees tend to have larger tracts in landscapes that are mostly forested.
  • Enrollees tend to actively manage their land, received land management assistance, and are less likely to use it for hunting.
  • Landowners are less likely to enroll in programs that restrict uses, or that have more requirements such as a management plan.
  • Enrollees are no more or less likely to be concerned about high taxes or development pressure but show a preference for keeping their land forested.
  • Enrollees are no more interested than non-enrollees in passing land to heirs.

The researchers used information collected by the National Woodland Owner Survey, as well as land use and socioeconomic data.

The findings could help administrators and policymakers improve the tax programs and, potentially, enroll more landowners.

The studies were published in the journals Land Use Policy and Forest Policy and Economics. For more information, contact Greg Frey at gregory.e.frey@usda.gov.

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