480-a offers the potential for you to save substantially on your property taxes, but it also requires a commitment to managing your woodlot for the next 10 years. Consider the benefits and obligations carefully before you enroll.
If you own a woodlot in the New York City Watershed, the Watershed Agricultural Council provides money to help you enroll in 480-a. The New York City Watershed includes portions of eight New York counties: Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester.
480-a requires you to have and follow a management plan for your woodlot written by a professional forester. Choosing the right forester for you will help not only during plan creation, but also when you decide to harvest timber.
Once you have a written management plan, you must submit that plan and the required forms to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in order to enroll in 480-a. Be sure to enroll by December 31 to receive your tax break for the coming year.
If you were previously approved for Watershed Agricultural Council cost-share funding, you can receive your payment once you've enrolled in 480-a. Send a copy of your 480-a certificate of approval, management plan, and work schedule to the Council, and your check will be mailed within 30 days.
If you enroll your land in the New York State 480-a Forest Tax Law Program, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requires you to update your management plan every 5 years. How do you go about getting that update done?
Agricultural assessments can reduce your property taxes for land actively used for farming. Many farm products qualify, but the program has acreage and earnings thresholds and time commitments. Consider the benefits and obligations carefully before you enroll.
Submit your soils map, completed application, and lease agreement (if leasing land to a farmer) to your local assessor. Your assessor must receive all these documents before March 1 for you to receive your agricultural assessment and have your taxes lowered.
You can subtract the value of the timber when you first purchased or inherited your woodlot – your "basis" – from your taxable income when you have a timber sale. This reduces your taxable income. If you don't know your woodlot's basis, a consulting forester can help you determine it.
How you report income from logging and how much tax you owe depend on which of 3 tax classes your woodlot falls into. You can determine your woodlot's tax class by answering a few simple questions about why you own it and how you use it.
Once you've worked with an assessor to begin your application, contact the Soil and Water Conservation District office for the county where your woodlot is located. They will map the soils on your property, and your assessor will use that information to calculate your tax break.
The best place to start when seeking an agricultural assessment is the tax assessor for the town where your woodlot is located. Your assessor can confirm your eligibility, help you fill out a program application, and provide directions for next steps.
When you’re satisfied with all the easement’s terms and ready to sign, close on your easement to have it go into effect.
Most easements are held by local non-profit groups called land trusts. The first step in getting an easement is to meet with your local land trust to see if you and they will be good fits for each other.
There is no "one size fits all" estate plan. From wills to trusts to conservation easements, a variety of tools exist to give you and your heirs flexibility in meeting your goals.
Conservation easements stay with the property even after you no longer own it, so involve your family, especially potential heirs, in your choice of whether or not to ease your land.
Conservation easements have tax implications, such as possible charitable deductions, income tax credits, and reduced property and estate taxes. Review your potential easement with a tax accountant to ensure you get the best tax treatment and that you’re prepared in case of an audit.
As with buying or selling a house, you’ll need to know the value of your land to determine the value of your easement and any potential charitable deductions.
Having a firm grasp of your finances is important to reducing end-of-life expenses and taxes. A CPA can help you consider different strategies to make your legacy plan happen.
Information about your land's value is crucial for appraisals and other planning tasks. A forester can help you determine what natural resources you have and how much they're worth.
An estate planning attorney is critical to an effective legacy plan. These specialized lawyers can help you with legal documents such as wills, trusts, and LLCs.
Having a family conversation about the future of your land can be difficult and emotional, but it will help everyone be on the same page about what you desire.
Easements can protect your land from future development and often have financial benefits, but they aren’t for everyone. Learn more about them before starting down the road of getting one.
Estate planning is for every landowner. Deciding what happens to your land after you're gone is the most important step you can take as a landowner.
Is your land a priceless heirloom, something valuable only as a financial asset, or somewhere in between? This family activity will help you learn how different members see the family land.
Before getting an easement, it’s a good idea to talk to other landowners who have them and learn from their experiences. If you don’t know someone locally with an easement, the links in this Activity will let you hear firsthand from easement landowners
Estate planning is complex and emotional. But you can do it! These landowner stories—many in their own words—can provide ideas and inspiration for your own journey.
Easement contract language can be confusing. Get a second opinion on your potential easement agreement by showing it to an attorney or estate planner familiar with land laws.
There's no substitute for in-person gatherings on the family land. Getting your family outside and walking together lets each person reflect on what your land means to them.