DENVER Gentlemen farmers could face higher property tax rates under a bill the House passed Tuesday.
House Bill 1146 makes it easier to charge higher residential property tax rates on land around houses.
The Denver Post reported this month that many wealthy people, including the actor Tom Cruise, will allow a few sheep or cows to graze on their land in order to qualify for the agricultural tax classification and avoid high taxes on the land under their mountain mansions.
The sponsor, Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, said his bill would help put a stop to agricultural discounts for people who arent really farmers.
But it doesnt apply just to the land around mansions. Opponents said middle-class people who use their land to raise chickens and cattle would be caught up with higher tax bills.
The bill passed 41-24, with all the no votes coming from Republicans. Locally, Ignacio Rep. J. Paul Brown and Montrose Rep. Don Coram voted against it.
HB 1146 applies to up to two acres surrounding a house, not to the home itself, which is already taxed under residential rates.
Legislators began raising concerns about the misuse of agricultural taxes last year, and they called for a task force to meet over the summer and offer a solution. Masseys bill came from the task forces recommendation.
However, the bill avoided the more difficult issue of what to do with large tracts of empty land that developers have set aside for housing developments but are currently assessed at the agricultural rate. State law allows farmland to be taxed on the value of the agricultural products it produces, which is usually much lower than the lands potential value as a residential development.
We really wanted to address the particularly egregious use of residential (tax status), Massey said.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Massey thinks it stands a good chance of passing.
Reach Joe Hanel at email@example.com.