In 1971, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law permitting localities to adopt a program of special assessments for agriculture, horticultural, forest and open space lands.
The purpose of the program is to encourage the proper use of such real estate in order to assure a readily available source of agricultural, horticultural and forest products and of open spaces; conserve natural resources to prevent erosion and protect adequate and safe water supplies; to preserve scenic natural beauty; to promote proper land-use planning and orderly development of real estate.
When your land qualifies for Land Use Taxation, the parcel receives a lower assessment than the fair market assessment. The difference in tax dollars is not a total abatement, but rather a deferment. Taxpayers owning real estate that meets the qualifications may enter the program under one or more of the following categories: Agricultural Use, Horticultural Use, Forrestal Use or Open Space Use.
Agricultural & Horticultural Use Categories
Virginia State Code requires a minimum of five (5) contiguous (unimproved) acres. One acre is excluded for a house-site (if dwelling exists) or a proposed house-site. The remaining five acres or more may qualify for Land Use taxation.
The property must have a five (5) year previous history of continuous farming or horticultural activity before qualifying on the sixth year. If land is left vacant for one year or more, the farm history must begin again for five (5) continuous years.
The entire farm must be qualified with adequate livestock: One mature cow, five goats, five sheep, or five swine, one hundred chickens, and/or sixty-six turkeys per every five acres for twelve (12) months. Horses can qualify the land only if they are being used for a breeding or boarding BUSINESS. Horses maintained exclusively for recreational purposes DO NOT qualify the land.
Cropland needs to be qualified on the basis of selling crops or needs to be qualified by adequate livestock.
HORTICULTURAL crops must be produced for commercial use only to qualify for land use taxation.
Forestal Use Categories
FORESTAL USE category requires twenty (20) contiguous acres unimproved or more exclusively devoted to forestal use with NO LIVESTOCK ACCESS. Forestal acreage with livestock access must be qualified under the AGRICULTURAL USE category. NO stripping or clear cutting is permitted unless working under the guidance of the Department of Forestry. Forestal participants are required to have a Forest Use Agreement. This can be obtained from the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office, or you may consult an independent forester.
Open Space Use Categories
This category is for specific types of parks, historical land, and recreational areas only. This category DOES NOT refer to open, unused land.
Applications are normally accepted between September 1-November 1. There is a $20.00 + a 5 cent per acre fee for each application. In any year in which a general reassessment is being made, NEW applications must be submitted within 30 days after the notice of reassessment has been mailed. If you purchase land that is already in land use, the commissioner’s office will send a letter outlining the procedures for continuation in the program. If you sell acreage from a tract under Land Use, it is your responsibility to notify the commissioner’s office of the change.