Pennsylvania’s Clean and Green Law has been providing Pennsylvanians with voluntary rural property tax relief for nearly four decades in recognition of their commitment to preserving the land in production agriculture, open space or forested tracts, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding reminded Pennsylvanians today. The regulations were updated earlier this summer, allowing for more uniform administration of the program.
“Property taxes increase when additional services are required for that area, whether those are schools, a police force, additional street maintenance, or other local services,” said Redding. “Clean and Green recognizes that forests, farmland and other open spaces don’t require the same local service costs as developed areas, and offers farmers, homeowners and other landowners the opportunity to receive property tax relief.”
Clean and Green is a voluntary, preferential tax assessment program that bases property taxes on use values rather than fair market values. This ordinarily results in a tax savings for eligible landowners. The Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the program in 1974 as a tool to encourage protection of the commonwealth’s valuable farmland, forestland and open spaces. Currently, more than 9.3 million acres are enrolled statewide.
The Department of Agriculture updated the program this past June, providing further guidance that promotes the efficient and uniform statewide administration of the act, updating and supplanting outdated and inadequate provisions and implementing changes made in the 14 years since the ac was last updated.
“It was time to take a close look at the provisions of our regulations and ensure they met the standards of the law,” said Redding.
Highlights of the improvements include:
- Oil and gas development – regulation provides for a limited rollback tax on just those areas permanently devoted to the activity after reclamation occurs;
- Alternative energy – regulation includes tier one alternative energy systems (including wind, solar and biomass) primarily for use on the farm in the eligibility definitions;
- Commercial wind energy – regulation provides for a limited rollback tax on just those areas devoted to wind development;
- Farmstead land – regulation addresses how farmstead land must be assessed; and
- Recreational leasing – regulation provides for recreational leasing without rollback taxes provided the lease occurs on Agricultural Use or Forest Reserve property.
To qualify for Clean and Green, a property must be 10 acres in size, and in Agricultural Use, Agricultural Reserve or Forest Reserve.
- Agricultural Use is for land used to produce an agricultural commodity or enrolled in a federal conservation program.
- Agricultural Reserve land is non-commercial open space land used for outdoor recreation or enjoyment of scenic or natural beauty and open to the public for such use without charge or fee.
- Forest Reserve Land is land of 10 acres or more capable of producing timber or other wood products.
Agricultural Use applications may be less than 10 acres in size if the property is capable of generating at least $2,000 annually in farm income.
Landowners may voluntarily remove their land from Clean and Green, but must pay seven years of rollback taxes – the taxes that would have been owed if the land was not enrolled in Clean and Green – at six percent interest per year. Land enrolled in Clean and Green for less than seven years is only subject to rollback taxes on those years the land was enrolled in the program.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture supplies county assessment offices with Clean and Green program use values annually. The county has the option to implement these values or use lower values.