A revised schedule of land values (per acre) taxed on the basis of its use for agriculture, forestry or horticulture has been proposed for Wilkes County as part of a new revaluation for property taxes.

The new present use values, all higher except for forestry, and a revised schedule of values for the new revaluation are the subject of a public hearing at the Nov. 8 county commissioners meeting. This information is available for public view at the county tax office in the Wilkes County Office Building in Wilkesboro.

New values for all real property in Wilkes, including present use values, as a result of the latest revaluation take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The state’s present use system gives landowners the option of having parcels taxed at a lower rate if they meet certain requirements as agricultural, horticultural or forestry land.

There are two categories of present use values in Wilkes, one for parcels in the mountains and the other in the Piedmont.

Current and proposed new present use values for Wilkes parcels in the Piedmont are agricultural, up 9 percent, from $613 now to $670 per acre in the new revaluation; forestry, down 5 percent, from $305 to $290; and horticultural, up 10 percent, from $873 to $960.

For Wilkes parcels in the mountains, they are agricultural, up 5 percent, from $818 to $860; forestry, down 12.7 percent, from $235 to $205; and horticultural, up 10 percent, from $1,611 to $1,770.

Current present use values have been in place since results of the last revaluation were implemented in 2013. Hamilton said the roughly 3,500 Wilkes parcels in the present use program, mostly large tracts of timber, account for over a third of the county’s acreage and about $610 million in deferred annual property value.

Three different values for each category (agricultural, horticultural and forestry) are determined by a formula that factors in capitalization rates, soil types, cash rents paid for horticultural and agricultural land and net income from forestland.

The N.C. Department of Revenue recommends but doesn’t require that county tax offices assign each parcel one of the three values per category, said a spokesman for that department.

Wilkes Tax Administrator Alex Hamilton said the Wilkes tax office isn’t able to provide soil surveys for individual parcels so it uses the average of the three.

He said property owners can have more present use values assigned to their parcels based on soil type, but they must provide a detailed soil analysis of the parcel. He said few landowners have exercised this option.

Hamilton said a registered consulting forester can provide a landowner with detailed soil analysis of a parcel.

In the proposed new present use value schedule, the lowest of three values for each category in the mountains is $545 for agricultural parcels, $675 for forestry and $1,120 for horticultural. For the Piedmont area of Wilkes, the lowest is $420 for agricultural, $250 for forestry and $615 for horticultural. Non-productive land is valued at $40 per acre, which includes rock cliffs.

A state law enacted earlier this year added land used for fishing, shooting and wildlife recreation and used to breed or raise animals for hunting to the present use program, effective July 1, 2019. The land must be inspected every five years by a wildlife biologist to ensure it meets certain qualifications under the law.

When acreage is removed from the present use system, the difference between taxes paid on the land based on its real market value for development and on its value under the present use system going back three years plus interest must be paid. Deferred taxes that are more than three years old disappear, never to be collected.

Land can remain in the present use value program indefinitely, but is taken out of the system when it no longer qualifies or isn’t re-enrolled in the system within 60 days after being sold. Land can no longer qualify because it is developed, because it no longer meets acreage requirements due to part being sold or because a landowner wants out.

A parcel must consist of at least 10 acres in actual production to be eligible for the present use system as agricultural land, at least five acres as horticultural land and at least 20 acres as forestland.

Agricultural and horticultural land must have produced an annual average income of at least $1,000 to be eligible. There is no income requirement for forestland.

An application for putting forestland in the present use program must be accompanied by a written forestry management plan written by the N.C. Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service or a registered consulting forester.

Applications and more details are available from the Wilkes tax office.

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