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					                                                     WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

Open Space Taxation Act                                                                                                                      JUNE 2012

The information and instructions
in this publication are to be used
when applying for assessment on
the basis of current use under the
“open space laws,” chapter 84.34
RCW and chapter 458-30 WAC.

What is the Open Space
Taxation Act?                                       Open space land is defined
The Open Space Taxation Act,                        as any of the following:
enacted in 1970, allows property
owners to have their open space,                    1. Any land area designated as                          g. Preserve visual quality along
farm and agricultural, and timber                      open space land by an official                          highway, road, and street
lands valued at their current use                      comprehensive land use plan                             corridors or scenic vistas.
rather than at their highest and best                  adopted by any city or county and
                                                                                                            h. Retain in its natural state
use. The Act states that it is in the                  zoned accordingly.
                                                                                                               tracts of land not less than
best interest of the state to                                                                                  one acre situated in an urban
maintain, preserve, conserve, and                   2. Any land area in which the                              area and open to public use
otherwise continue in existence                        preservation in its present use                         on such conditions as may be
adequate open space lands for the                      would:                                                  reasonably required by the
production of food, fiber, and forest                   a. Conserve and enhance natural                        legislative authority granting
crops and to assure the use and                            or scenic resources.                                the open space classification.
enjoyment of natural resources and
scenic beauty for the economic and                      b. Protect streams or water supply.
                                                                                                        3. Any land meeting the definition
social well-being of the state and                      c. Promote conservation of                         of “farm and agricultural
its citizens.                                              soils, wetlands, beaches or                     conservation land,” which
                                                           tidal marshes. (As a condition                  means either:
                                                           of granting open space
Lands qualifying for                                                                                        a. Land previously classified
                                                           classification, the legislative
current use classification                                 body may not require public                         under farm and agriculture
The law provides three                                     access on land classified for                       classification that no longer
classifications:                                           the purpose of promoting                            meets the criteria and is
Open space land                                            conservation of wetlands.)                          reclassified under open
                                                                                                               space land; or
Farm and agricultural land                              d. Enhance the value to the public
                                                           of neighbouring parks, forests,                  b. “Traditional farmland,” not
Timber land                                                                                                    classified, that has not been
                                                           wildlife preserves, nature
                                                           reservations or sanctuaries                         irrevocably devoted to a use
                                                           or other open space.                                inconsistent with agricultural
                                                                                                               uses, and that has a high
                                                        e. Enhance recreation                                  potential for returning to
                                                           opportunities.                                      commercial agriculture.
                                                        f. Preserve historic sites.
This fact sheet provides general information regarding the Open Space Taxation Act. The information is current at the date of publication.
Please note subsequent law changes may supersede or invalidate some of this information.
                                            WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

                                           3. Any parcel of land that is five acres      b. Land on which appurtenances
                                              or more but less than 20 acres, is            necessary for production,
                                              devoted primarily to agricultural             preparation, or sale of
                                              uses, and has standing crops with             agricultural products exist in
                                              an expectation of harvest within:             conjunction with the lands
                                              a. Seven years and a demonstrable             producing such products.
                                                 investment in the production of         c. Any non-contiguous parcel one
                                                 those crops equivalent to $100             to five acres, that is an integral
Farm and agricultural land is                    or more per acre in the current            part of the farming operation.
                                                 or previous calendar year.
defined as any of the following:                                                         d. Land on which housing for
                                              b. Fifteen years for short rotation           employees or the principal
1. Any parcel of land that is 20 or              hardwoods and a demonstrable               place of residence of the farm
   more acres, or multiple parcels               investment in the production of            operator or owner is sited
   of land that are contiguous and               those crops equivalent to $100             provided the use of the housing
   total 20 or more acres, and are:              or more per acre in the current            or residence is integral to the
   a. Devoted primarily to the                   or previous calendar year.                 use of the classified land for
      production of livestock or                                                            agricultural purposes and
      agricultural commodities             4. For parcels of land five acres or             provided that the classified
      for commercial purposes.                more but less than 20 acres, “gross           parcel(s) is 20 or more acres.
                                              income from agricultural uses”             e. Land that is used primarily for
   b. Enrolled in the federal
                                              includes, but is not limited to, the          equestrian-related activities
      conservation reserve program
                                              wholesale value of agricultural               including, but not limited to,
      (CRP) or its successor
                                              products donated to nonprofit                 stabling, training, riding, clinics,
      administered by the United
                                              food banks or feeding programs.               schooling, shows, or grazing
      States Department of
      Agriculture.                                                                          for feed. Depending on the
                                           5. Any parcel of land less than                  number of classified acres,
                                              five acres devoted primarily to               the land may be subject to
2. Any parcel of land that is five acres
                                              agricultural uses and has produced            minimum income requirements.
   or more but less than 20 acres, is
                                              a gross income of:
   devoted primarily to agricultural
   uses, and has produced a gross             a. Prior to January 1, 1993, $1,000     Timber land is defined
   income equivalent to:                         or more per year for three of the
                                                                                      as the following:
                                                 five calendar years preceding
   a. Prior to January 1, 1993, $100                                                  Any parcel of land five or more acres
                                                 the date of application for
      or more per acre per year                                                       or multiple parcels of land that are
      for three of the five calendar                                                  contiguous and total five or more
      years preceding the date of             b. On or after January 1, 1993,         acres which is or are devoted primarily
      application for classification.            $1,500 or more per year for          to the growth and harvest of timber
                                                 three of the five calendar           for commercial purposes. Timber land
   b. On or after January 1, 1993,
                                                 years preceding the date of          means the land only and does not
      $200 or more per acre per year
                                                 application for classification.      include a residential homesite. The
      for three of the five calendar
                                                                                      term includes land used for incidental
      years preceding the date of
                                           6. “Farm and agricultural land” also       uses that are compatible with the
      application for classification.
                                              includes any of the following:          growing and harvesting of timber but
                                                                                      no more than 10 percent of the land
                                              a. Incidental uses compatible with
                                                                                      may be used for such incidental uses.
                                                 agricultural purposes, including
                                                 wetland preservation, provided       It also includes the land which
                                                 such use does not exceed 20          appurtenances necessary for the
                                                 percent of the classified land.      production, preparation, or sale
                                                                                      of the timber products exist in
                                                                                      conjunction with land producing
                                                                                      these products.

                                             WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

Who may apply?                              Is there an application fee?                The granting authority either
An owner or contract purchaser may          The city or county legislative              approves or rejects the application
apply for current use assessment            authority may, at their discretion,         in whole or in part within six months
under the open space law. However,          establish a processing fee to               of receiving the application. In
all owners or contract purchasers           accompany each application. This            determining whether an application
must sign the application for               fee must be in an amount that               made for classification or
classification, and any resulting           reasonably covers the processing            reclassification should be approved
agreement.                                  costs of the application.                   or denied, the granting authority may
                                                                                        consider the benefits to the general
                                                                                        welfare of preserving the current use
When may I apply?                           What happens after I file my                of the property.
Applications may be made for                application for the open space
classification at any time during the                                                   They may require that certain
                                            classification?                             conditions be met including but not
year from January 1 through
                                            Applications for classification or
December 31. Current use valuation                                                      limited to the granting of easements.
                                            reclassification as “open space land”
assessment begins on January 1                                                          If the application is approved,
                                            are made to the appropriate agency
in the year following the year the                                                      in whole or in part, the granting
                                            or official called the “granting
application was filed.                                                                  authority will, within five days of the
                                            authority.” If the land is located in the
                                            county’s unincorporated area, the           approval date, send an Open Space
Where do I get the application?             county legislative authority is the         Taxation Agreement to the applicant
Application forms for the farm and          granting authority on the application.      for signature showing the land
agriculture land classification are         If the land is located within an            classification and conditions
available from the county assessor's        incorporated area of the county, the        imposed. The applicant may accept
office. Application forms for the open      application is acted upon by a joint        or reject the agreement. If the
space and timber land classifications       county/city legislative authority           applicant accepts, he or she must
are available from either the county        consisting of three members of the          sign and return the agreement to
assessor's office or by contacting the      county legislative authority and three      the granting authority within 30 days
county legislative authority.               members of the city legislative             after receipt.
Application forms are also available        authority.
                                                                                        The approval or denial of the
on the Department of Revenue's web          If the application is subject to a          application for classification or
site at                         comprehensive plan that has been            reclassification is a legislative
                                            adopted by any city or county it shall      determination and is reviewable only
Where do I file the application?            be processed in the same manner             for arbitrary and capricious actions.
An application for open space               in which an amendment to the                Appeal can be made only to the
classification is filed with the county     comprehensive plan is processed.            superior court of the county where
legislative authority.                      If the application is not subject to        the application was filed.
                                            a comprehensive land use plan,
An application for farm and                                                             Within 10 days of receiving notice
                                            a public hearing on the application
agricultural land classification is filed                                               of classification of the land from the
                                            will be conducted, but a notice
with the assessor of the county where                                                   granting authority, the assessor
                                            announcing the hearing must be
the property is located.                                                                submits the notice to the county
                                            published at least 10 days prior to
                                                                                        auditor for recording in the place
An application for timber land              the hearing.
                                                                                        and manner provided for the public
classification is filed with the county                                                 recording of state tax liens on real
legislative authority. Timber land                                                      property.
applications require that a timber
management plan also be filed.                                                          Current use valuation will begin on
                                                                                        January 1 of the year following the
                                                                                        year the application was filed. The
                                                                                        criteria for classification continue
                                                                                        to apply after classification has been

                                             WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

How does a public benefit                   Within 10 days of the approval,           What happens after I file my
rating system work?                         the assessor submits the notice of        application for timber land
If the county legislative authority has     approval to the county auditor for
                                            recording in the place and manner
established a public benefit rating                                                   Applications for current use timber
system (PBRS) for the open space            provided for the public recording
                                                                                      land classification or reclassification
classification, the criteria contained      of state tax liens on real property.
                                                                                      are made to the county legislative
within the rating system govern the                                                   authority. A timber management
eligibility of the lands described in       What is an “advisory                      plan is required at the time of
each application filed for that                                                       application or when a sale or transfer
classification and the current use                                                    of timber land occurs and a notice of
                                            The county legislative authority must
valuation of that land.                                                               continuance is signed.
                                            appoint a five member committee
When a county creates or amends             representing the active farming           The application is acted upon after
a PBRS, all classified open space land      community within the county. This         a public hearing in a manner similar
will be rated under the new system.         committee will serve in an advisory       to open space land classification
A parcel that no longer qualifies for       capacity to the assessor in               within six months of receiving the
classification will not be removed          implementing assessment guidelines        application.
from classification, but will be rated      as established by the Department of
according to the PBRS. Within 30 days       Revenue for the assessment of open        Approval or denial of an application
after receiving notification of the new     space, farm and agricultural lands,       is a legislative determination and is
value established by the PBRS, the          and timber lands.                         reviewable only for arbitrary and
owner may request removal of                                                          capricious action. Appeal can be
classification of the parcel without                                                  made only to the superior court of
                                            How do I appeal a denial of my            the county where the application
imposition of additional tax, interest,
and penalty.                                farm and agricultural land                was filed.
                                            application?                              The application form requires
                                            The owner may appeal the assessor’s       information about forest
What happens after I file my                denial to the board of equalization       management, restocking, fire
application for farm and                    in the county where the property          protection, insect and disease
agricultural land classification?           is located. The appeal must be filed      control, weed control, and any other
The assessor will act on each               with the board on or before July 1        summary of experience and activity
application for classification or           of the year of the determination or       that supports the growth and harvest
reclassification of farm and                within 30 days after the mailing of       of timber for commercial purposes.
agricultural land with due regard           the notice of denial, or within a time
to all relevant evidence, and may           limit of up to 60 days adopted by the
approve the application in whole            county legislative authority,
or in part. Upon application for            whichever is later.
classification or reclassification, the
assessor may require applicants to
provide data regarding the use of
such land, including the productivity
of typical crops, sales receipts, federal
income tax returns, other related
income and expense data, and any
other information relevant to the
The application will be considered
approved unless the assessor notifies
the applicant in writing prior to May
1 of the year following the year the
application was made.

                                            WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

Are there additional
requirements once the
application for classification
or reclassification has been
The owner of classified land must
continue to meet the criteria
established for classification, or the
assessor may remove the land from          When are taxes due                        How do I withdraw from
the current use classification.
                                           on classified lands?                      classification?
                                           Land which is classified as open          If intending to withdraw all or a
How is the value of classified             space, farm and agricultural, or          portion of the land from classification
land determined?                           timber land is assessed at its current    after 10 years, the owner must give
The assessor is required to maintain       use value and placed on the               the county assessor two years prior
two values for each parcel that is         assessment rolls in the year following    notice. This notice can be filed after
classified. The first is the value that    the year of application. Taxes on         the eighth assessment year of the
would be placed on the land if it was      classified land are due and payable       initial 10-year classification period.
not classified. This is commonly           in the year following the year the        If a portion of a parcel is removed
referred to as the “fair market value.”    land was valued at its current use        from classification, the remaining
The second is the current use land         and placed on the assessment rolls.       portion must meet the requirements
value based on its present use, not                                                  of original classification unless the
potential use, as classified by the                                                  remaining parcel has different
                                           How long does the                         income criteria.
granting authority.
                                           classification last?
Open space land located within             The land continues in current use
a county that has adopted a public         classification until a request for        What happens after I file
benefit rating system will be valued       removal is made by the owner, the         a request to withdraw?
according to the criteria of the           use of land no longer complies, or the    Upon receipt of a request for
rating system.                             ownership has changed and the new         withdrawal, the assessor notifies the
                                           owner has not signed a Notice of          granting authority that originally
In the absence of a rating system,
                                           Continuance. The notice of removal        approved the classification, and,
the valuation will be no less than the
                                           is recorded with the county auditor       when two years have elapsed, the
lowest per acre value of classified farm
                                           in the same manner as the recording       assessor withdraws the land from
and agricultural land in the county.
                                           of state tax liens on real property.      classification. The land withdrawn
In determining the current use value       Additional tax, interest, and penalties   from classification is subject to an
of farm and agricultural land, the         will apply if the land is removed and     additional tax equal to the difference
assessor considers the earning             the removal does not meet one             between the tax paid on the current
or productive capacity of comparable       of the exceptions listed in RCW           use value and the tax that would have
lands from crops grown most                84.34.108(6).                             been paid on that land had it not
typically in the area averaged over                                                  been classified. The additional tax is
not less than five years. This earning                                               payable for the last seven years, plus
or productive capacity is the “net cash                                              interest at the same rate as charged
rental” and is capitalized by a “rate of                                             on delinquent property taxes.
interest” charged on long term loans
secured by a mortgage on farm or
agricultural land plus a component
for property taxes.
Timber land is valued according
to a schedule prepared by the
Department of Revenue for the
Timber Tax law, chapter 84.33 RCW.
                                          WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

What happens if the classified           How are taxes assessed if my               What if the additional taxes
land is sold or transferred?             property is classified for only            are not paid?
When classified land is sold or          part of a year?                            Any additional tax, applicable
transferred, the seller or transferor    Assessed valuation before and after        interest, and penalty become a lien
becomes liable at the time of sale for   removal of classification will be listed   on the land at the time the land is
the additional tax, interest, and        and allocated according to that part       removed from classification. This
penalty unless the new owner(s)          of the year to which each assessed         lien has priority over any other
signs the Notice of Continuance          valuation applies.                         encumbrance on the land. Such a lien
which is attached to or shown on the                                                may be foreclosed upon expiration of
real estate excise tax affidavit. The                                               the same period after delinquency in
county auditor cannot accept an          If the assessor removes                    the same manner as delinquent real
instrument of conveyance on any          my land from classification,               property taxes.
classified land unless the Notice of     may I appeal?
Continuance has been signed or the       Within 30 days after the land is
additional tax, interest, and penalty                                               What is done with the
                                         removed from classification, the
has been paid. The assessor              assessor must notify the owner in
                                                                                    additional tax, interest, and
determines if the land qualifies         writing explaining the reasons for         penalty I pay on classified
for continued classification.            removal. The owner may file an             land?
                                         appeal of the removal from                 Upon collection, the additional tax
What if I want to change the             classification to the county board of      is distributed by the county treasurer
                                         equalization on or before July 1 of        in the same manner in which current
use of my classified property?
                                         the year of the determination, or          taxes applicable to the subject land
An owner changing the use of land
                                         within 30 days of the date the notice      are distributed. The applicable
from a classified use must notify the
                                         was mailed by the assessor, or within      interest and penalties are distributed
county assessor within 60 days of this
                                         a time limit of up to 60 days adopted      to the county’s current expense fund.
action. The assessor will remove the
                                         by the county legislative authority,
land from classified status and
                                         whichever is later.
impose an additional tax equal to the
difference between the tax paid on
the current use value and the tax that   Upon removal from
would have been paid on that land        classification, what taxes
had it not been classified. The
                                         are due?
additional tax is payable for the last
                                         At the time the land is removed from
seven years, plus interest at the same
                                         classification, it becomes subject
rate as charged on delinquent
                                         to any additional tax, applicable
property taxes, plus a penalty of
                                         interest, and penalty that are due
20 percent of the total amount.
                                         and payable to the county treasurer
                                         within 30 days after the owner
                                         is notified.

                                          WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

                                                                                    How do I change the
                                                                                    classification of my property?
                                                                                    Land may be reclassified, upon
                                                                                    request by the owner, subject to
                                                                                    all applicable qualifications for each
                                                                                    classification, without additional tax,
                                                                                    interest, and penalty for the following:

Under what circumstances can             7. Removal of land classified as farm      1. Land classified as farm and
                                            and agricultural land under RCW            agricultural land may be
my property be removed from                                                            reclassified to timber land; timber
                                            84.34.020(2)(f), on which housing
classification without                      for employees and/or principal             land may be reclassified to farm
additional tax, interest,                   place of residence is sited.               and agricultural land.
and penalty?                             8. Removal of land from                    2. Land classified as either farm
The additional tax, applicable                                                         and agricultural land or timber
                                            classification after enactment
interest, and penalty are not imposed                                                  land under chapter 84.34 RCW,
                                            of a statutory exemption that
if the removal from classification                                                     or forest land under chapter 84.33
                                            qualifies the land for exemption
results solely from one of these                                                       RCW may be reclassified to open
                                            and receipt of notice from the
actions:                                                                               space land.
                                            owner to remove the land from
1. Land is transferred to a                 classification.                         3. Land classified as farm and
   government entity in exchange         9. The creation, sale, or transfer of         agricultural land or timber land
   for other land located within the        forestry riparian easements under          may be reclassified to forest land
   state of Washington.                     RCW 76.13.120.                             under chapter 84.33 RCW.
2. Land is taken through the             10. The creation, sale, or transfer of a   4. Land previously classified as
   exercise of the power of eminent          conservation easement of private          farm and agricultural land may
   domain, or land is sold or                forest lands within unconfined            be reclassified to open space
   transferred to an entity having           channel migration zones or                land as “farm and agricultural
   the power of eminent domain               containing critical habitat for           conservation land” and
   after receiving notification in           threatened or endangered                  subsequently be reclassified back
   writing or by other official action       species under RCW 76.09.040.              to farm and agricultural land.
   that they anticipated such action.                                               Applications for reclassification are
                                         11. The sale or transfer of land within
3. Land use changes because                  two years after the death of an        acted upon in the same manner as
   of a natural disaster.                    owner who held at least a 50           approvals for initial classification.
                                             percent interest in the land if        The county assessor approves all
4. The present use of the land is                                                   applications for farm and agricultural
   disallowed because of an official         the land has been assessed and
                                             valued as designated forest land       classifications and reclassifications.
   action by an agency of the state,                                                The granting authority approves all
   county, or city.                          under chapter 84.33 RCW, or
                                             classified under chapter 84.34         land classifications or reclassifications
5. Land is transferred to a church           RCW continuously since 1993.           for timber land and open space land.
   that qualifies for an exemption                                                  Land less than 20 acres being
   under RCW 84.36.020.                  12. Removal of land because it was         reclassified into farm and agricultural
                                             classified in error, by the granting   land from open space “farm and
6. Property interests are acquired           authority, through no fault of         agricultural conservation land,”
   by state agencies or agencies or          the owner.                             timber land, or forest land may have
   organizations qualified under                                                    the income requirements deferred
   RCW 84.34.210 and 64.04.130                                                      for a period of up to five years from
   for conservation purposes.                                                       the date of the reclassification.

                                         WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

Is supporting information               Laws and Rules
required for continued                  It is helpful to read the complete
                                        laws, Revised Code of Washington,
                                        chapter 84.33 and 84.34 (RCW) and
The assessor may require the owner
                                        rules, Washington Administrative
of classified land to submit data
                                        Code, chapter 458-30 (WAC) to
regarding the use of the land,
                                        understand requirements of the
productivity of typical crops, income
                                        classifications and the tax liabilities
and expense data, and similar
information regarding continued
                                        Need More Information?
                                        Requirements and the manner for
                                        making the application for current
                                        use is available at the county
                                        assessor’s office.
                                        For general information contact:
                                        ƒ Department of Revenue,
                                          Property Tax Division
                                          P. O. Box 47471
                                          Olympia, Washington 98504-7471
                                          (360) 534-1400
                                        ƒ Website
                                        ƒ Telephone Information Center
                                        ƒ To inquire about the availability
                                          of this document in an alternate
                                          format for the visually impaired,
                                          please call (360) 705-6715.
                                        ƒ Teletype (TTY) users please call


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