The Current Use law in New Hampshire provides a tax break for certain property owners who choose not to change the “current use” of their property to a higher level of development. However it shifts the tax burden to property owners who do not have property in “current use”. Here are some details.
- In 1973, the NH Legislature created the Current Use law to “encourage the preservation of open space” by giving property owners a break on their taxes. (NH RSA 79-A:1)
- The NH Current Use Board sets the level of “encouragement”. Today, current use landowners receive as much as a 98% discount on their property taxes.
- This means that the other residents in town have to pay higher property tax to make up for the taxes not collected from properties in “current use”. (It’s a zero-sum game. If the legislature mandates a discount on taxes for some properties, the taxes have to go up for other residents.)
- Many property owners have already permanently conserved land. Consequently they do not need additional encouragement (through a tax break) to preserve open space since development is already precluded.
- In my town of Lyme, NH, it appears that 94% of all land in Lyme is either conserved or in current use. Discounts for current-use properties total over $1.5 million and add about $5 to our $27.19 per thousand tax rate.
- Forty-five years later, we now understand the true effect of the Current Use law: in rural towns with lots of open space, it drives up the tax rate for all residents. The law has relatively little effect in more densely-developed, urban towns, since there are few current use properties.
The NH Current Use Board has opened a public comment period (for this year) about the proposed Current Use Assessment Ranges. Comments may be submitted in writing to Tracey Russo, Paralegal Department, NH Department of Revenue Administration by mail at PO Box 457, Concord, NH 03302; by fax at (603) 230-5932; or by e-mail at Tracey.Russo@dra.nh.gov. The deadline for the submission of written comments is Thursday, June 20, 2019.
I just sent an email to Tracey.Russo@dra.nh.gov along the lines below:
To the NH Current Use Board:
I am a resident of Lyme NH. I wish to submit a public comment to the Board regarding their regulations regarding Current Use.
/s/ Your name
The NH Legislature could rewrite the Current Use law to make it more equitable. This is a long term project. However, I request the Current Use Board to consider the following changes to their regulations:
1) Add the requirement that land may not qualify for current use treatment if it is already has a permanent restriction from development.
2) Decrease the base discount on Current Use property, to create meaningful incentives for creating a stewardship plan or making the land available for the public to access.
3) Set different discount rates for current use land and permanently-conserved land. Permanently conserved land can be assessed at its market rate, while current use land can receive a temporary discount for the time that the land is in its current use.
I would encourage you to send your own message, using any (or all) of the points above. I would also like to know what you wrote: you can cc me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
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