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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?

The easiest way is to contract with your consulting forester to do the work for you. Not only can they help update your management plan, but often they can handle much of the paperwork filing on your behalf (you may need to sign some of the forms).

If your land is in the New York City Watershed, cost-share funding is available to help offset some of your forester’s fee. You can use this application to apply for 5-year update funding, and you can use this webpage to determine whether your woodlot is in the New York City Watershed.

 Once you connect with your forester about doing your 5-year update, the process goes something like this:

  1. If field measurements are required to update your plan, your consulting forester needs to do this work. Typically, your forester will need to remeasure a stand of woods if either a) harvesting was done in that stand in the past 5 years or b) the stand hasn’t been measured in the past 15 years. Your forester will also need to do field measurements if you’re adding new acreage to your current 480-a enrollment.
  2. Once your forester completes any needed measurements, he or she will then update your plan using that new information. Even if no measurements are necessary, your forester still needs to update your plan and submit it to DEC stating that there is no new information necessary at this time.
  3. The updated plan needs to be sent to DEC by December 31. Some consultants have many clients and don’t get this information in until later. The DEC forester in charge of your plan at your regional DEC office will know if your plan is being processed. You can use this map to find contact information for the regional DEC office that applies to your land.
  4. When your plan update has been approved by DEC, they’ll send you a written notice and a new Certificate of Approval. These papers will include directions on how to submit copies to your local assessor so that you can keep getting your tax break. Typically, those directions will include contact information for your local assessor. If not, you can contact your town office and get that information. Some foresters will handle this paperwork filing for you, but you should contact yours to make sure it gets done.
  5. Once all the paperwork is filed with your assessor, it’s a good idea to check with them before May 1 to confirm that they’ve received your exemption and processed your tax reduction. This link shares a page that can give you an idea approximately what reduction in taxes you can expect.
  6. If you don’t agree with the tax reduction you received, you can contest it by filing form RP-524 prior to grievance day (typically the 4th Tuesday of May, but check with your local assessor to confirm for your town).

REMEMBER! Every year you’re in 480-a—whether you have a 5-year update due or not—you still need to submit a commitment form to both your local assessor and your regional DEC office. You need to submit this form before March 1 in order to stay enrolled in 480-a and keep receiving your tax savings. Your consulting forester may be able to do this for you, but only if you’ve given them power of attorney.

 

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