Current Use Taxation

IN BRIEF

Use Value Appraisal, or “Current Use” as it is commonly known, is a property tax incentive available to owners of agricultural and forestry land in Vermont. Eligible landowners can enroll in the program to have their land appraised at its Current Use (farming or forestry) value rather than fair market value. This method of appraisal results in significant property tax savings to the landowner in every year that the land remains enrolled in the program. While enrolled, the land cannot be developed and, instead, must remain agricultural or forest land. If the land gets developed then the landowner will lose the favorable tax status and pay a financial penalty.

SUMMARY

Many landowners in Vermont make their living by working the land. They raise cattle, grow crops, and manage forests. These businesses require a substantial amount of land, which means more property taxes that the landowner must pay.  The Vermont legislature adopted Use Value Appraisal in 1978 to help relieve the burden of high property taxes on these landowners (see Title 32, Ch. 124). By reducing the economic burden on farmers and forest owners, the state sustains the working landscape, supports the owners that work the land, and helps maintain the state’s traditional settlement pattern.

Vermont taxes property based on fair market value (see 32 V.S.A. § 3481). The policy behind Current Use taxation, the common name for the Use Value Appraisal policy, is that farmland and forests should not be taxed at the same rate as developed land. This policy creates a property tax based on the land’s use value and not its market value. “Current use” indicates that the property tax will last as long as the land is used for forest or farmland. If the land gets developed, then the tax changes to reflect the fact that the land is no longer used for forestry or farming. Thus, Current Use taxation is an incentive for landowners to retain the agricultural use of their property. They are free to develop their land, but if they do, they lose the favorable tax treatment.

Current Use was designed as property tax break to relieve economic pressures on farmers and forest owners who enrolled in the program. The tax break helps eligible landowners stay economically viable by lowering the amount of property tax they have to pay each year. Another goal is to deter development on our farms and fields, which directs new development to our town centers. This not only helps towns retain their historic character, but it also helps farms maximize their capacity to supply local food.

Eligibility Requirements – This section provides information on how to qualify for the program.

How The Program Works – This section provides an overview of how Current Use taxation can reduce property taxes for those enrolled in the program.

Effect On Municipal Property Taxes – This section discusses the impact Current Use taxation has or does not have on municipal property taxes.

Resources – This section provides a list of further resources that provide more detailed information on this topic.