PARKERSBURG - Applications are available now until Sept. 1 for farmers to claim a discount that could mean up to a 90 percent tax break for qualifying properties.
"A farm discount is a tax preference given to farmers to reduce the amount of taxes that are paid on an active farm. This was first offered back during the Depression era to help keep people who were raising crops, and providing much needed food from losing their farms," Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer said.
Many states offer some form of farm use discount. The 90 percent discount in West Virginia is on the land.
"If there is a house on the property, that house and a one-acre homesite are valued at market value. All the farm buildings are valued at market value, but the land itself is where the discount is given," Shaffer said.
To qualify for the farm use discount, you must own at least five acres that produces a minimum of $1,000 in crop value, which can be for personal use or for sale. If you have less than five acres, you may qualify, if you have at least $500 worth of produce. The value of the produce is what it would sell for on the market, according to the assessor.
Shaffer said receipts are requested as proof of sales, and his office does periodic spot checks of farm discount properties, and checks all new farm use discount applications.
For the 2011-2012 tax year, there are 976 farm discounts on file in the assessor's office, the discount must be renewed annually.
According to the Census of Agriculture, the number of farms with cattle and milk cows was 7,000 in 2010 in West Virginia. The 2007 census showed 902 farms in Wood County with more than 88,000 acres in farmland, the average size being 99 acres. The average farm in the state is between 50-179 acres, according to the census.
The census is performed every five years.
Those already on the farm discount mailing list receive a form each year. Of the 1,070 farm discount forms sent out for the 2011-2012 tax year, 976 were returned and approved, three were denied.
Anyone who has not received their farm discount use application form by now should contact the assessor's office, or if you want to apply for tax year 2012-2013, contact the assessor's office for a form or stop by the office. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, offices are the in Judge Black Courthouse Annex.
"If they need help filling them out, we are happy to help," Shaffer said.
Individuals with honey bees can also qualify for the farm use discount, the acreage requirements would be the same.
"As long as they produce $1,000 worth of honey, they would qualify. We also have orchards, vineyards and some Christmas tree farms in the county," Shaffer said.
Anyone with questions or needing more information should contact the assessor's office at 304-424-1875 or 304-424-1999 or stop in the assessor's office at the Judge Black Courthouse Annex.
If the assessor's office determines the farmland on the application does not qualify for the discount, the applicant can appeal to the state tax department for reconsideration.