Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Letters to the Editor

March 20, 2014

Ag exemptions robbing small land owners

JACKSONVILLE — A recent Daily Progress article noted that local tax districts are requiring increased documentation to justify timber and agricultural exemptions on rural properties. The general tone of the article was that they are "cracking down" on tax scofflaws and those who would try to "abuse" the system and pay less tax.

Can we just call this what it is ... a massive money grab and extortion by the state, which has billions in its "rainy day fund," and local districts who are always looking for a way to squeeze a few more bucks from taxpayers. I own rural acreage in Anderson County and received my threat letter/ultimatum from the appraisal district. I dutifully filled out the ridiculous application forms and hand carried them, along with a 2004 Forestry Management Plan (required) to the Palestine office. "That's not adequate," I was curtly informed by the appraiser ... "You'll have to submit a new plan satisfying the new criteria required by the state."

Ok, I have the resources available to do this, but many may not. This is what the tax authorities are counting on ... rural land owners allowing their exemptions to expire either out of lack of money to fulfill the requirements, or a lack of time and awareness to jump through the hoops. I mean, what else are you going to do with your rural land in East Texas besides graze it, hunt it or sell timber off it? ALL of which benefits the local economy.

The ultimate result of this is an environment where it is ever more difficult for the common man to own rural farm property. Losing the tax exemptions for ag and timber will actually make the land UNAFFORDABLE for many small land owners of modest means and ownership of the local woods and pastures will be transferred to corporations or wealthy urbanites.

The foundational American/Texan dream of owning a piece of land that you can hunt, grow food on, raise your kids and grandkids on will fade away. And we will ALL be a much poorer society because of that.

Ronnie Cundieff

Jacksonville

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