Prop 11 and the Texas Wildlife Exemption
This article reviews the requirements for qualifying land for wildlife management, for initially appraising the land, and for defining elements of the seven wildlife management activities as they relate to the wildlife exemption in Texas. Chapter 23, Subchapter D, of the Property Tax Code addresses the qualifications for agricultural appraisal and the appraisal of qualified agricultural land. Land used for wildlife valuation and management must meet all the legal requirements of land qualified for agricultural appraisal. Land on which the owner engages in wildlife management and meets other requirements for agricultural appraisal is qualified for agricultural appraisal and is technically in agricultural use. To simplify terms, however, this article refers to agricultural land used for wildlife management as land in wildlife management use.
In November 1995, Texas voters approved Proposition 11 which amended Article VIII, Section 1-d-1, of the Texas Constitution to permit productivity appraisal for land used to manage native wildlife. House Bill (H.B.) 1358 implemented the constitutional amendment by adding wildlife management as an agricultural use that qualifies the land for agricultural (productivity) appraisal in Property Tax Code Section 23.51.
H.B. 1358 required the Comptroller, with the help of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M Extension Service, to issue guidelines to county appraisal districts (CADs) on how to qualify and appraise land used to manage wildlife for agricultural appraisal. The Comptroller’s Property Tax Division has distributed interim guidelines to county appraisal districts. You can obtain a copy by writing the Property Tax Division at the following address:
Property Tax Division
P. 0. Box 13528
Austin, Texas 78711-3528
You can also call the toll-free number, (800) 252-9121 or 305-9999 in Austin. These guidelines will be revised in the future to accommodate changes in law, circumstances or in light of new information.
If the property does not qualify for the agricultural appraisal, a five-out-of-seven-years qualification period is required to gain an agricultural tax exemption. Below are some of the qualifications listed in the Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land for property to meet agricultural tax exemptions: 1) The property must be devoted to an agricultural use and the operation must have a degree of intensity that is typical to the area at degree of intensity is set/determined by the chief appraiser; 2) Other property connected with the land is not eligible, such as minerals, products of agricultural operation and improvements; 3) In five of the last seven years, the land must have been used for agriculture; 4) Land used as an ecological laboratory by colleges or universities may qualify for agricultural appraisal; and 5) Land owned by a foreigner is in-eligible as well as some land located within city limits.
One of the primariy requirements for wildlife management use qualification relates to the land’s actual use to manage wildlife. The law restricts what land may qualify for wildlife management use. To qualify for agricultural appraisal under the wildlife management use, the property owner must have qualified the land for agricultural appraisal under Chapter 23, Subchapter D Tax Code (also called 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal), at the time the owner changes the land’s use to wildlife management use. In other words, the owner must have qualified the land for agricultural appraisal during the year before the year the owner changes to the wildlife management use. In short, an ag valuation must be in place before applying for a wildlife exemption.
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