A reduction in your PA tax assessment can generally be obtained if you own ten or more contiguous acres through Act 319, commonly referred to as the Clean and Green Act. Act 319-Clean and Green is officially known as the Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974. There are three types of land that are eligible for Act 319-Clean and Green Act: 1)Land in Agricultural use, 2)Land in Agricultural Reserve, and 3)Land in Forest Reserve. The tax benefits stem from the fact that the land is assessed at the value it has for that use, rather than at fair market value, with the intention being that the land be kept in one of those uses.
There are many common misunderstandings around Act 319-Clean and Green Act. Most people think that if you own ten or more contiguous acres, you have to be actively farming the land to qualify for Act 319-Clean and Green – however this is not true, your land can probably qualify for Act 319-Clean and Green under the Agricultural Reserve category. However you should be aware that if your land is enrolled in Act 319-Clean and Green as Agricultural Reserve land, the public has a right to use it for outdoor recreation or the enjoyment of natural beauty – with certain restrictions. This fact is generally not known and actual use by the public is not a requirement of enrollment, however it must be available for these purposes.
Another common misunderstanding regarding Act 319-Clean and Green is that the land is “preserved” and can never be developed. There is a big difference between land in Act 319-Clean and Green and land that has been preserved through the Bureau of Farmland Preservation. While the intent of Act 319-Clean and Green enrollment is to maintain the land as agricultural or forested land, landowners do have the capability of subdividing their land if they wish, but will most likely have to pay back the portion of the tax reduction they received while the land was enrolled in Act 319-Clean and Green. Act 319-Clean and Green also allows for flexibility of breaking off a 2-acre tract annually without incurring the payment of rollback taxes on the entire tract. Land that has been officially “preserved” by the Bureau of Farmland Preservation differs from this as the development rights have been sold, generally to the county, in the form of an agricultural easement, which doesn’t permit any future subdivision of the land.
One more notable misconception revolves around the amount of the reduction in your taxes when your property is enrolled in Act 319-Clean and Green. Often, landowners expect a huge difference in their taxes after enrolling – the amount of your reduction varies greatly and is dependent on a number of different factors. The most important thing to remember is that it is only the land that is being preferentially assessed, not the value of the buildings. So if you have a 6000 square foot house, an indoor pool and four garages, you are not going to see as large a reduction in your taxes as if your house is more modest.
There is a formal application procedure for applying for Act 319-Clean and Green reduced tax assessment, which requires completing the “Clean and Green Valuation Application” form and submitting it to the county tax assessor by June 1st for approval. If the application is approved for Act 319-Clean and Green, the preferential tax assessment will be applicable for the next year’s tax roll. Please feel free to call or email me with questions or for help in applying – Barbara Winn, 484 547 3098, BarbaraWinn@kw.com