Indiana Senate Panel Endorses Farmland Tax Relief Bill

 
Indiana Senate Panel Endorses Farmland Tax Relief Bill

An Indiana Senate committee has endorsed a measure sought by farmers that aims to once again postpone a property assessment change that could send farm taxes higher.

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 6-0 on Monday for a bill that would require property assessors to use 2011 soil quality figures in this year's land value determinations.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency says using updated 2012 soil productivity data in those calculations would lead to an average 25 percent increase in tax payments for farm owners.

If the bill becomes law, the assessed value of Indiana farmland would drop 5.9 percent while property taxes that otherwise would be paid by farmland owners would shift to homeowners and businesses, The (Munster) Times reported.

The measure heads next to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee for consideration.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly agreed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to one-year delays in implementing the updated soil productivity factors in land value assessments.

State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, said her bill's goal isn't necessarily tax relief for farmers. She believes instead that the delay is needed to determine if Indiana's soil productivity factors are accurate.

All Indiana farmland is assessed at a base value of $2,050 per acre that's adjusted by soil productivity and influence factors to calculate the assessed value of a parcel.

The Department of Local Government Finance released updated soil productivity factors in 2012 based in part on the higher yields farmers now obtain from their lands.

Indiana farmers such as Ken Wyckoff, who farms 4,000 acres in Porter County, said rising tax bills have cut into his ability to earn a living.

"We're not out here farming just to lose money or break even. This is our livelihood," he said.

The Indiana Farm Bureau said the rapid increase in the assessed value of agricultural land has far outpaced other types of property across Indiana. Katrina Hall, the bureau's director of state government relations, said property taxes paid by the agricultural community have increased 33 percent, or by more than $100 million, between 2007 and 2013.

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