Current Use Overview (RSA 79-A)
The current use program was enacted July 1, 1973 and was designed to preserve open space by assessing land at its actual current use and not at its highest and best use - typically as developed land. Land is valued not as building lots but as farm land, forest land either mixed, pine, or hardwoods, and unproductive land (land that cannot produce a farm or forest crop.)
The land in question must be at least ten (10) acres in addition to the lands required to access and maintain any structures in size, or provide $2500 per year in agricultural or horticultural products. The exception to the ten-acre requirement is unimproved wetlands - such land can be any size such as a pond.
When land is taken out of current use a one time 10% land use change tax (LUCT) is assessed based on the market value of the land in question at the time the use changes to non-qualifying. This may or may not be the selling price. The person or entity that owns the land at the time of use change is responsible for the payment of the lien.
You can subdivide and sell land without a penalty if the parcels are still ten acres or more or fit some other criteria such as unimproved wetlands.
- The lien remains with the land no matter who owns it.
- There are no “buy out” provisions.
How to Apply
- An application (PDF) to place land in current use must be submitted by or before April 15th to your municipality, at a cost of $16 plus postage to cover the recording at the registry of deeds.
- A map clearly delineating the areas to be current use, and of what type (farm, forest, etc) must accompany the application - it does not have to be a survey map.
- The landowner can retract the application within the same tax year before it is recorded.
- The municipality must notify the landowner by July 1, or 15 days after July 1 if the landowner was prevented by accident, mistake, or misfortune (“I forgot” does not count) from applying by April 15th.
- No application will be accepted after the tax rate has been set in the municipality for that year.
- The lien must be recorded at the registry of deeds by August 1st.
Your land may be in current use but that does not open it up to the public; that is up to you. However if you’d like to get a further 20% reduction on your current use land assessment you must allow certain recreational activities to take place. These activities are:
- Nature observation (unless its detrimental to a crop)
- Your ten acres can be contiguous, or touching parcels that total at least ten acres and are under identical ownership. A road, river, railroad bed, body of water, or political boundary does not prevent parcels from being contiguous.
- Land is not disqualified just because it is waterfront of has substantial road frontage.
- The land and maintained grounds that buildings (house, sheds, sugarhouse, barn, garage, etc.) may be on cannot be in current use including driveways, septics, and utilities.
- The amount of land for a house lot that will be excluded from current use is not governed by local zoning requirements. So, if you live in a 1.5 acres lot size zone you don’t necessarily have to keep 1.5 acres out of current use. Typically however we find about that much is needed including the driveway and land needed to service the house, the lawns, and outbuildings. This is another reason a map is required by statute.
- You can change from one land category to another, but you must notify your municipality.
Taking Land Out of Current Use
As stated above there is no buy out provision; once your land is in current use it stays there forever and is passed to subsequent owners in the same condition. Land is removed from current use under the following conditions:
- The land use is physically changed, for example from farmland to a building lot in a subdivision. Only the land changed is assessed, the rest stays in current use if there is still at least ten acres except for roads/utilities to approved developments, and land needed to fulfill density requirements.
- Another is when the land size no longer conforms to the ten-acre minimum.
- If you had 14 acres and you sold 6, both the 6 acres (the new owner is responsible for the lien release fee) and your remaining 8 acres (you are responsible for the lien release fee) would come out of current use.
- If you had 14 acres and you sold only 3 acres there would only be a lien release fee due on the 3 acres payable by the owner of the 3acres - when the deed was recorded the fee became due as that is when the land use changed in this case.
- Another is when the topsoil or gravel is removed and sold - removal for the landowner’s use is allowed without issuance of a lien release fee. Refer to RSA 79-A:7 IV(b) exceptions (1) and (2) for specific information.
For any questions, contact the assessor’s office at 603-472-8104. Download a copy of the Current Use Application (PDF) to start the process.