The wildlife management use tax valuation is the new answer for Texas landowners asking themselves how they can keep those property tax rates low without having to maintain agricultural production on their properties. Livestock had been the go-to for landowners looking to keep an agricultural tax exemption. Livestock can be great, but on smaller properties where the focus is on wildlife and habitat management, then the wildlife tax valuation makes a lot of sense.
Since the 1990’s, the opportunity to claim a wildlife use to obtain a property tax exemption has been in place in Texas. But it’s not as simple as just signing up. An existing agricultural valuation is necessary before converting to a wildlife exemption, and then an application form and a wildlife management plan must be submitted to the appropriate central appraisal district.
Source: For several years, the opportunity to claim a wildlife appraisal to obtain a tax exemption on property has been in place. But the process can be a little bit daunting. “There are rules in several different places, the Tax Code, the Texas Administrative Code, and there are comptroller-created rules to go along with the guidelines created by TPWD,” said Keith Olenick, senior biologist at Texas Wildlife Company. “It can be hard for a landowner making the switch to a wildlife exemption.”
An existing agricultural valuation is necessary before converting to a wildlife exemption, and then an application form and a wildlife management plan must be submitted to the appropriate central appraisal district. “The application is available online, and the plan is based on a Texas Parks and Wildlife-created form, about 10 pages long,” Olenick said. The landowner can complete the form, but a biologist-prepared form covers the bases a landowner might miss that result in the application being denied, Olenick said.
“A lot of appraisal districts want more than the basic information,” he explained. “They want to see maps and descriptions of the activities that will take place. They aren’t always quick to agree to reduced taxes on thousands of acres in their district.” The Texas Tax Code includes wildlife management in the definition of agricultural uses of land and defines wildlife management.
“Basically, the plan must designate a targeted, native species and the practices need to benefit that species,” Olenick said. “This is the reason most plans are denied.”
Using wildlife management as an agricultural practice to qualify for the 1-d-1 Open Space Agricultural tax appraisal in Texas is not widely understood by many landowners or potential landowners, but implementing management practices can greatly improve hunting on just about any property. While it is relatively easy to switch from traditional agricultural uses such as cattle or hay production to wildlife management agricultural use, there are several guidelines that must be adhered to in order for the property to receive the special agriculture tax appraisal based on wildlife management.
The enjoyment associated with managing for wildlife, however, make the change in land use management worthwhile for many landowners. The results can be improved deer hunting, dove hunting or better populations of other small game species. Landowners are reminded that to qualify for the special tax appraisal, the following issues must be addressed:
1) The property must have already been qualified as 1-d-1 Open-Space Agricultural Use land the year prior to changing to wildlife management use.
2) The land must be used to support a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wild animals. In other words, the primary use of the land must be for managing wildlife and/or habitat.
3) An application for 1-d-1 (Open Space) Agricultural Appraisal must be submitted showing the change in land use to wildlife management and submitted to the appraisal district in the county in which the property is located.
4) A Wildlife Management Plan for Agricultural Tax Valuation must be completed and submitted to the Central Appraisal District in the county in which the property is located.
5) If property has been reduced in size since the previous tax year, minimum tract size requirements must be met to qualify for open space land appraisal for wildlife management use.
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