TRENTON— Legislation long-sought by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) to prevent abuse of the state’s farmland assessment law has been approved in a 39-0 vote by the New Jersey Senate.
The legislation, S- 589, now awaits action in the state Assembly.
“In this bill, the State Board of Agriculture and the Division of Taxation will issue guidelines to help tax assessors to define legitimate farming activity that qualifies for the assessment,” said Beck, “and those participating in the program will have to submit evidence of agricultural sales and income to their tax assessor. This bill modernizes the law to better ensure that only those who actively work the land receive the 98% property tax break on their property. I strongly urge my colleagues in the state Assembly move this legislation and send it to the Governor’s desk.”
“Clearly this program is being taken advantage of and it’s the taxpayers who ultimately lose the most. It’s long past time we update the farmland assessment law. This protects both real farmers and the taxpayers of New Jersey, ” said Sweeney.
The bill would boost the threshold of sales derived from farming activity to $1000 per year from the current $500, and provide for a review of the sales threshold every three years. This number was selected based on a 2007 study by Rutgers which calculated how many farms would be disqualified at minimum revenue qualifications of $1000, $2500 and $10, 000. A $10, 000 was estimated to take 398, 093 of New Jersey`s approximately 982, 000 acres of farmland off the preservation rolls.
Abusers of the program would face a $5000 fine, in addition to restitution of all taxes inappropriately avoided on property fraudulently claimed under the assessment program and other penalties.