Owning or buying land in Texas comes with special considerations, a major one being property taxes. Large pieces of property can carry with them large tax amounts. However, these amounts can be lowered with the help of an agricultural (ag) exemption or wildlife exemption. Having one of these exemptions in place can significantly lower the amount of property taxes you pay on the land, as well as the land’s use.
While these are commonly called “exemptions” they are actually special valuations. The property is appraised and taxed based on the productivity value of the land, rather than at market value. Therefore, these exemptions can result in substantial property tax savings.
The following activities qualify a property:
“(1) cultivating the soil; (2) producing crops for human food, animal feed, or planting seed or for the production of fibers; (3) floriculture, viticulture and horticulture; (4) raising or keeping livestock; (5) raising or keeping exotic animals or fowl for the production of human food or fiber, leather, pelts or other tangible products having a commercial value; (6) planting cover crops or leaving land idle for the purpose of participating in a governmental program provided the land is not used for residential purposes or a purpose inconsistent with agricultural use or leaving the land idle in conjunction with normal crop or livestock rotation procedures; (7) producing or harvesting logs and posts used for construction or repair of fences, pens, barns or other agricultural improvements on adjacent open-space land having the same owner and devoted to a different agricultural use; (8) wildlife management; and (9) beekeeping.”
To qualify for an agricultural exemption, the owner needs to show active use of the property primarily for agricultural purposes, such as cattle, hay production, beekeeping, crops, timber, etc. for at least 5 of the last 7 years (5 of the last 5 years if located within city limits).
If you currently own property and are looking to instate a new ag exemption and meet the requirements, you can easily fill out the application form(1) online on Bell CAD’s website. If purchasing property with an ag exemption already in place and use is not being changed from the previous owner, this should be a fairly easy process: just make sure to file for the valuation as a new owner using that same form. The 5-7 years does not start over if a property changes ownership.
In order to qualify for a Wildlife Exemption, the property must currently have an Ag Exemption and like the ag exemption, it must now be devoted primarily to wildlife management. The property owner must also provide a written wildlife management plan along with their application. The management plan must show efforts to “sustain a breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wildlife for human use, including food, medicine, or recreation,” and implement at least three of the seven following practices: (1) habitat control, (2) erosion control, (3) predator control, (4) providing supplemental water, (5) providing supplemental food, (6) providing shelters, or (7) conducing census counts.
To convert to a Wildlife Exemption, file an application with Bell CAD and provide details of your wildlife management plan using the form(2) prescribed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Regularly assess and document your property’s wildlife management activities, as you will be required to report(3) on them annually.
As part of Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Technical Guidance Program, a landowner can request a one-on-one consultation with a district biologist to assist in developing their wildlife management program.
If you currently have an exemption in place, it is important to thoroughly review your property tax statements every year to ensure the correct valuation is still there. In addition, if agricultural or wildlife use is ceased, a property could be subject to a “rollback tax,” in where the difference between what would have been paid in taxes at market value and what was paid, plus interest, per year for the last three years becomes due.
Understanding and leveraging agricultural and wildlife exemptions in Bell County can lead to significant financial benefits while contributing to the preservation of Texas’ unique landscapes. Always consult with local authorities and professionals to ensure you navigate the process smoothly and make informed decisions about your property. Keep up with any changes in tax laws or exemptions that may impact your property.
Bell County landowners can contact our local Texas AgriLife Extension Services office, Texas Parks & Wildlife district biologists, or Bell County Appraisal District for guidance regarding agricultural and wildlife use and exemptions.
- Application for Ag Exemption in Bell County
- TPWD 1-D-1 Open Space Agricultural Valuation Wildlife Management Plan
- TWPD 1-D-1 Open Space Agricultural Valuation Wildlife Management Annual Report
- Texas Comptroller’s Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land
- Texas Comptroller’s Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use
- Texas Property Tax Code