Legislature and State Government and Development/Redevelopment and Taxes and Historic Preservation and Property taxes and Legislation and Government & Economic Development and Government and Real Estate & Retail

Bill would expand state’s historic preservation tax credit

March 29, 2013

A bill that was killed last year after passing the Indiana House has been revived this session in hopes of expanding the state’s historic preservation tax credit.

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said the bill is all about economic and job development.

He said Indiana has too many historic buildings left abandoned that could be renovated into something useful. That’s why Indiana Landmarks — a not-for-profit preservation group — supports the bill.

The organization’s lobbyist, Amy Levander, also said that sometimes renovating just one historic building can have a positive effect on an entire town.

“This ranges from our smallest towns to our largest cities,” Clere said. “Every town has these buildings and this is a bill that offers something for every community.”

Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, has said while Indiana is one of about 30 states that has a historical preservation tax credit, Indiana’s cap is one of the lowest.

“It is the least effective of all the 30-some programs in the country like it,” Davis said last year, during an earlier debate about the legislation. “And the reason is the annual allocation cap is very low. I mean most states that have caps at all are in the tens of millions, if not more.”

According to Indiana Landmarks, tax credits work in the following way: 20 percent of what a property owner spends to rehabilitate a historic, income-producing property comes off the bottom line of the taxes paid to the state and federal governments. There are restrictions and guidelines that limit the type of buildings and renovations the tax credit program covers.

Currently, the credit is backlogged because the tax credit caps at $450,000 per year. That means some projects approved for the program have been completed but can’t claim the tax credit for at least a dozen years. Supporters of  a program expansion say that gives few incentives for investors to restore historic properties, especially since many of them are private developers.

“I have talked to developers around the state who can be just an individual who has an interest in their town,” Levander said.

Last year, the House approved a bill to significantly expand the program. But the Senate changed it so dramatically that Clere, the author, killed the bill.

This year, a House committee amended similar language into a Senate bill. “I’m excited we’ve found a new home for the language of the bill,” Clere said.

The new bill — Senate Bill 4 — is now headed to the Ways and Means Committee, where it is expected to be considered next week.  The bill would increase the current $450,000 annual cap on tax credits to $2 million the first year and increase the cap gradually to $10 million by 2017.

“We’re trying to increase the annual cap and revise and update a number of other features to make it more functional and useful,” Clere said.

Most of the money would be used for projects approved after June 30. The bill would assign $450,000 per year in funding to take care of the backlog of credits.

Clere said he has no intention of giving up on the bill if it doesn’t pass this session. “One way or another we’re going to make this happen,” he said. “It’s just too important for Indiana to let it die.”

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