By Mark Megalos, Extension Professor, Forestry & Environmental Resources, NC State University
January traditionally is an important month for forest landowners from a tax and financial standpoint. It will be especially important in 2019 for landowners in Hertford and Northampton counties. Both counties among the 21 counties statewide that are scheduled for revaluation in the coming tax year.
This means that all real property in these counties will be reassessed to current fair market values. This normal “updating of values” may affect landowners enrolled in the Present Use Valuation property tax program by necessitating a new forestry plan. Another potential outcome is that the reassessment will simply reset or lock in Present Use Valuation rates until the next revaluation several years from now.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, Present Use Valuation describes the county tax assessor’s calculation of property tax by applying the current tax rate to the “use-value” of the land that is producing timber, rather than to the market value, which is based upon the highest and best use of the property. In many counties, the tax savings from enrolling in the PUV program are substantial and allow landowners to maintain their forestland despite development pressure.
The normal filing or “listing” deadline for participation in the Present Use Valuation program is January 31st. If the property has not been previously been enrolled in the program, the landowner will need to develop a forest management plan to qualify for participation. A forest management plan, which can be developed with the help of the N.C. Forest Service or a commercial consulting forester, guides development of a healthy, thriving and profitable forest and helps ensure that the landowner’s specific needs, objectives and interests are met with regard to his or her property.
Historically, even for those already enrolled, the revaluation period increases the demand for updated forest management plans needed to comply with the Present Use Valuation program. Landowners interested in updating their plans in time to qualify for 2019 are urged to work with N.C. Forest Service personnel or their private forester to ensure that their plans are prepared in time to keep in compliance.
Depending upon the reassessment made by the county tax assessor, forest landowners in Hertford and Northampton counties may have another opportunity to apply to the program in the spring time frame, since applications can be filed within 30 days of receiving a new valuation or tax card by mail. That typically occurs in April.
Landowners with questions about forest management plans can contact the N.C. Forest Service. Questions about Present Use Valuation also can be directed to your county tax assessor’s office or to my office at the NC State Extension Service.