Expiration of farm property tax exemptions proposed

Published online: Jan 03, 2015
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SALEM—A bill that would end property tax exemptions for crops, livestock and farm machinery in 2018 will be considered by Oregon lawmakers next year.

Legislative Concept 1674, which the House Revenue Committee recently voted to introduce as a bill in 2015, would sunset numerous exemptions that apply to agriculture, potentially driving up property taxes for farmers.

“It’s one of the top bills we have to stop this next session,” said Katie Fast, vice president of public policy for the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Currently, many on-farm items are indefinitely excluded from the assessed value that farms are taxed upon in Oregon, including:

* Nursery stock, whether growing in the ground or in containers.

* Annual and perennial crops.

* Christmas trees.

* Harvested crops that are in the farmers’ possession, including hay, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and dairy products.

* Poultry, livestock and bees.

* Farm machinery and equipment.

Under the legislative concept, these exemptions would effectively expire on July 1, 2018 unless they’re renewed by the Oregon legislature.

The value of roads on farming, grazing and forest land isn’t currently assessed as taxable property, and this exemption would be removed permanently by the proposal, which makes many other changes to Oregon tax law.

For agriculture groups, the bill is worrisome because even the exemptions subject to renewal would require the passage of new legislation.

The exemptions are thus vulnerable to ceasing, which creates tax uncertainty for farm businesses.

“It is a huge hit for farming operations,” said Fast, noting that the bill could burden farmers with mountains of paperwork on top of tens of millions of dollars in added tax liability.

Similar proposals were floated twice in the Oregon legislature over the past decade and soundly defeated but Democrats strengthened their majority in the legislature in the November election so there’s a different dynamic, she said.

Increased revenue generation is likely to be a major point of discussion during the 2015 session, so farm advocates can’t take the bill’s defeat for granted, Fast said.

“We’re taking it seriously because of the impact it would have on family farms,” she said.

Source: www.capitalpress.com