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Agricultural and Timberland Appraisal

The Comptroller's office gathers data to develop agricultural productivity values for the property value study. A major source of information for the Property Tax Assistance Division is the annual Farm and Ranch Survey.

How may landowners qualify for special use appraisal?

Lands owners can apply for two types of special appraisals - appraisal based on productivity value and appraisal based on restrictions to use of land as public access property or recreation, park or scenic land.

Productivity value is based on land's ability to produce agricultural or timber products and is usually lower than market value. Additional information is available in the Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land and the Manual for the Appraisal of Timberland.

Land that is used to manage wildlife may also qualify for special use appraisal. See the Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use for additional information. The required management plan and other useful information are available from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Requirements for lands restricted to public airport or recreational, park and scenic lands vary. Additional information is available in these documents: Guidelines for the Appraisal of Public Access Airport Property and Guidelines for the Appraisal of Recreational, Park and Scenic Land.

What land qualifies for agricultural appraisal?

Property owners may qualify for agricultural appraisal if land meets the following criteria:

  • The land must be devoted principally to agricultural use. Agricultural use includes producing crops, livestock, poultry, fish, or cover crops. It also can include leaving the land idle for a government program or for normal crop or livestock rotation. Land used for raising certain exotic animals (including exotic birds) to produce human food or other items of commercial value qualifies. Cutting wood for use in fences or structures on adjacent agricultural land also qualifies.
  • Using land for wildlife management is an agricultural use, if such land was previously qualified open-space land and is actively used for wildlife management. Wildlife management land must be used in at least three of seven specific ways to propagate a breeding population of wild animals for human use.
  • Agricultural land must be devoted to production at a level of intensity that is common in the local area.
  • The land must have been devoted to agricultural or timber production for at least five of the past seven years. However, land within the city limits must have been devoted continuously for the preceding five years, unless the land did not receive substantially equal city services as other properties in the city.

What happens if land receiving an agricultural appraisal changes to a non-agricultural use?

If land receiving an agricultural appraisal changes to a non-agricultural use, the property owner who changes the use will owe a rollback tax. The rollback tax is due for each of the previous five years in which the land got the lower appraisal. The rollback tax is the difference between the taxes paid on the land's agricultural value and the taxes paid if the land had been taxed on its higher market value. Plus, the owner pays seven percent interest for each year from the date that the taxes would have been due. For example, the fifth year of rollback tax bill may include as much as 35 percent interest, depending on the date the use changed.

Exceptions to the rollback tax for change of use may include the following if they meet certain criteria:
  • a sale for right-of-way;
  • a condemnation;
  • land transferred to a state or political subdivision to be used for a public purpose;
  • land transferred from a state or political subdivision to an individual or entity for purposes of economic development;
  • timber land;
  • cemeteries;
  • religious organizations;
  • certain charitable organizations; and
  • schools.
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