Agriculture tax credit applications, savings set record  

Thomas

JEFFERSON —  With spring in the air and farmers preparing the fields for planting, the Ashtabula County Auditor’s Office releases new data for the Current Agriculture Use Value (CAUV) tax credit for agricultural property owners.

New applications and the number of parcels in the tax savings program hit a new record in 2021, County Auditor David Thomas said.

CAUV farmers saved a total of $6.7 million for tax year 2020, compared to $5.4 million in 2019 — a $1.3 million increase in tax savings to farmers.

An additional 56 new properties were added to the CAUV program in 2021, which is an increase from 47 in 2020, and 33 in 2019.

“Since taking office in 2019, one of our priorities is ensuring that residents who qualify for tax credits and savings programs are made aware and educated on their benefits,” Thomas said.

The application period goes from Jan. 1 to the first Monday of March every year, he said.

CAUV is a state program which lowers the taxable value of property based on the soil type of a field or acre of land. Farmers who commercially farm or timber property pay a reduced tax amount not based on the highest and best use value of the land, but rather a special formula based rate that takes into account crop commodity prices, yields and other economic variables for select soil types.

In total, 2,249 property owners are on the CAUV program with about 185,374 acres receiving a tax credit. Commercial agriculture can include activity such as crop production, animal husbandry, woodlands, bees, commercial fisheries, horse breeding, wine production and many other uses.

“Heather (Hall) in our office does a tremendous job working with property owners on the variety of ways people can qualify and save,” Thomas said. “Plus, keeping up with those on the program to ensure they can continue to qualify is a big part of our yearly process.”

Thomas believes these additional applications and farmers are signs both of expanding agricultural production in the county and property owners learning about credits available to them. The Auditor’s Office has held four free CAUV informational sessions with property owners, in addition to sending postcards last fall with tax credit information.

Of the 96 new parcels added to the CAUV rolls this past year, 42 are traditional crops, 38 are forestry, and the remaining 15 are a mixture of the two. The largest increase over the past two years has been in forestry and woodland savings, according to the auditor’s office records.

Qualifications for traditional CAUV include commercial agriculture of more than 10 acres, income averaging at least $2,500 if below 10 acres, or following a forest management plan with intent to commercially timber. Savings for property owners ranges for soil type but is traditionally a 75 percent reduction with the understanding a penalty of three years in savings must be paid if the property leaves commercial production.

“We’ve really been excited in the large growth not only of CAUV participants, but in the interest for woodland CAUV,” Thomas said. “This means more of our property owners are correctly managing their woods and preserving them for good environmental and commercial purposes.”

The increase in CAUV savings for property owners does not result in lost revenue to local government agencies. Unlike Homestead or other credits which the state reimburses, CAUV tax savings is offset by increases to residential property taxes. Thomas said state law mandates government revenues from levies passed by the voters to remain largely flat, regardless of changes in value.

While the CAUV application window is closed until January 2022, Thomas encourages residents to reach out to the County Auditor’s Office now to ask questions and get a head start. The office phone number is 440-576-3785.

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