Iowa Public Television


Agricultural Tax Breaks Benefit Urban Landowners

posted on April 2, 2004

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

Financial markets like the Dow this week rode a wave of positive economic news to higher levels.

Traders were cheered by news the nation's manufacturing sector continues to expand ... that factories saw orders rise in February ... and that wholesale prices edged up by just one-tenth of a percent during that same month.

There also was encouraging news from the job market, as companies added some 308-thousand new jobs in March. That's the highest monthly total in four years.

In farm country, meanwhile, the advent of April means preparation for spring planting and income tax filing. But as Tax Day nears, a new media probe released this week found widespread evidence of tax dodges using farmland credits.

Agricultural Tax Breaks Benefit Urban Landowners The investigation by Associated Press reporters revealed that developers were taking advantage of tax breaks designed to keep farmers on the land and slow urban sprawl. In some cases one bale of hay, a few cows, or even a few acres of corn grown on prime development real estate was enough to cut the tax burden by a factor of six.

In Iowa, developers receive a tax break for up to three years on agricultural land that is later transformed into housing. In one instance, land valued at seven million was assessed at the lower agricultural rate. This meant a tax bill of $320 thousand was reduced to $14-thousand.

In Colorado, while a subdivision was waiting for its 80 houses to be completed, the land owners paid only $60 in taxes as opposed to $22 thousand.

In defense of the law, analysts have stated that many farmers would be unable stay in business without the tax breaks. And some developers are quick to point out they farm the farmland and pay the higher tax rate on the developed property.

The obvious fix would be to change the law. Though many state and local government officials find the practice reprehensible, there appears to be an underlying inference that no proposed legislation to stop the abuse would survive the political process to become law.

Tags: agriculture farmers finance news urban