Reversing the Decline of the Small Family Farm
What better incentive could be offered to a farmer than to guarantee there will be no tax now or in the future as a result of his efforts to improve the productivity of his land and his capital property? What better incentive could there be, to be more productive with the land, than the assurance that the farmer gets to keep the full value of production?
When developers are encouraged to put downtown land to its highest and best use, the thrust of suburban sprawl is blunted. Instead, there are compelling reasons to first develop the highest-value land found near population centers, and not drive up the value of farmland for development. This keeps agricultural land affordable, and removes price pressure from Vermont’s small family farmer.
Determining the Rental Value of Agricultural Land
Unimproved land, such as farmland, is commonly rented on an annual basis. According to one case study, in 2009 the average annual cash rent for an acre of Vermont cropland in 2009 was $360 and its selling price was$9,400.
With a tax rate on rental value of 75%, the tax due under the Tax Reform Initiative for an average acre of Vermont cropland will be $22.50 a month or $270 on an annual basis. This is slightly less than 3% of the average selling price per acre. And this land rent tax will be in lieu of the existing property taxes, sales taxes and state personal income tax on the first $150,000 of annual income paid by the individual who owns the land.
An individual landowner earning over $150,000 a year will be able to claim a dollar-for-dollar nonrefundable tax credit on state personal income tax liability for all taxes paid by that individual on the rental value of Vermont land. And land-owning corporations will no longer be paying corporations tax in Vermont.
Nationwide, the USDA reports that 40% of farmland is leased. Enough agricultural land is leased in Vermont, thereby providing comparable rental values, that our state’s public assessors will have no difficulty in accurately determining the rental value of agricultural land.