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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Landowners and state property tax programs: Program requirements and forestland characteristics are key to enrollment

A clearing overlooking a river, with forest in the background
Private forestlands are eligible for property tax reduction in all 50 States, but numerous factors affect the likelihood that a landowner will choose to enroll. (Forest Service photo by Gregory Frey)

Introduction

All 50 States offer programs that lower property taxes for enrolled forestlands, but participation in these programs vary. SRS research found that program eligibility rules, restrictions on enrolled land, and penalties for withdrawal affect enrollment. Larger land parcels are more likely to be enrolled. Surprisingly, landowner goals and concerns were not usually linked to enrollment in state property tax programs.

Summary

Property taxes are among the most common concerns of private forest landowners. State programs that reduce property taxes for enrolled forestlands exist in all fifty states. Specific rules, restrictions, benefits, and penalties vary by state. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and USDA Forest Service used responses from the National Woodland Owner Survey and an analysis of all 50 State programs to determine how landowner, parcel, and program characteristics are linked to the likelihood of landowners enrolling their land.

Surprisingly, most factors are not strongly linked to enrollment, including landowner concern about taxes and income goals. Larger land parcels are more likely to be enrolled. Population density is related to enrollment, but not in a one-to-one way. Parcels that had the most and the least population pressure were less likely to enroll, and those in between were more likely to enroll, suggesting conflicting incentives.

Higher average tax reduction by state was not linked to higher enrollment, either. Program characteristics that require more paperwork or impose more restrictions on enrolled lands were linked to lower likelihood of enrollment. High penalties for withdrawal were linked to higher likelihood of enrollment. This suggests that the programs are effective at keeping lands in the program or attracting landowners who want to keep their forest as forest.