by James B. “Jim” Kea
Area Extension Forestry Agent – now retired
Thursday, February 9th, 2006
Many North Carolina timberland owners can save property taxes by managing their timber. State law provides tax relief for land where assessment of such lands at market value exceeds the assessment value of that land in its present use. Only the special classes of agricultural, horticultural, and forest land may qualify if they are individually owner (which includes family types of corporations) and are soundly managed. In addition, forest land must be 20 acres or more in size or part of a farm already qualifying as horticultural or agricultural land and must be the owner’s place of residence or have been in the owner’s family four or more years.
The timberland owner usually submits an application for forest present use valuation to the county tax supervisor during the regular listing period although some supervisors may automatically classify forest land. The tax supervisor will then decide whether or not the property qualifies. Decisions of the tax supervisor may be appealed to the County Board of Equalization, Board of Commissioners, and even to the State Property Tax Commission. Generally, a parcel of land will qualify if it meets all ownership qualifications and is being managed under a management program developed by a professional forester and approved by the N. C. Division of Forest Resources. Most counties go strictly by ownership qualification and disregard active management.
The purpose of this law is to provide tax relief to bona fide managers of forest land and is not designed to give tax relief to owners who are planning to convert to another land use in a short period of time. For this reason, a rollback provision is included which requires repayment of the immediate past three years of deferred taxes if the owner changes land uses.
It would be well worth a trip to your county tax supervisor’s office to check the abstract sheet on your property for present use classification and acreage. Most tax offices have maps on aerial photograph copies of your property available for a nominal fee. Be sure the boundaries on this map match what your deed shows or what you believe they are on the ground. If not, a survey may be needed. A landowner recently found an error on her property abstract sheet that saved her over $300 a year in property taxes.