Many developers, millionaires and homeowners in New Jersey get 98 percent tax breaks, thanks to an easily abused farmland exemption law and a blind eye from enforcement for those with connections. Landowners can limit their taxes by selling $500 a year in goods, or simply housing a few cows or sheep for a couple of months every year.
The APP reports:
On Tuesday, the state Senate voted 39-0 to approve the bill (S-589/A-3090), sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester. The state Assembly voted 70-4 to approve it last week.
The measure would require landowners with 5 or more acres to sell at least $1,000 in goods annually to qualify for farmland assessment, among other provisions. That’s double the $500 sales requirement in place since 1964. However, $500 would purchase more than $3,700 in goods today.
The $1,000 requirement would not cover woods under a woodland management plan; $500 in sales would still be needed. No income would be needed for land covered by a forest stewardship plan, as is the case under current law.
A state panel would review sales requirements every three years or sooner and could raise them.
“This bill modernizes the law to better ensure that the 98 percent property tax break provided by program is only given to those who actively work the land, and that taxpayers are not footing the bill for neighbors whose sole motivation is to avoid paying taxes instead of farming,” Beck said in a statement last week.
But the New Jersey Sierra Club criticized the bill.
“We are concerned this bill does not end the abuse by land speculators and developers who land bank our last developable open spaces and then turn around and develop the property after receiving huge tax breaks for decades,” group director Jeff Tittel said in a statement.