Credit Worthy News

HTC Watch | New bill introduced to enhance federal HTC

Posted by Katherine Ferguson on Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Last week, we received welcome news that a bill was introduced in Congress by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Susan Collins (R-ME), and U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to address existing basis-adjustment requirements of theHistoric Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HTC). The newly introduced legislation eliminates this requirement, enhancing the credit after uncertainty about investment potential with the change of terms in last year's new tax reform law that required the credit be taken over five years. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) was the model for this provision as it too has a multi-year claiming structure.

You can help by encouraging your Members of Congress to co-sponsor the HTC Enhancement Act of 2018 (H.R. 6081 or S. 3058).

National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) has created these helpful talking points:

  • The HTC provides owners of historic buildings with an incentive to invest in the difficult task of rehabilitating their properties according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
  • While the 20 percent historic tax credit was maintained in the final tax reform bill, it was modified, and this is expected to reduce the amount of reinvestment flowing into our historic communities and neighborhoods.
  • Presently, the tax code requires that building owners subtract the amount of federal historic tax credits from a building’s basis (the amount a property is worth for tax purposes). Eliminating this requirement will increase the basis of rehabilitated historic buildings for building owners, providing a tax benefit, and attract more capital from tax credit investors. Rep. LaHood (R-IL) and Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), and Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Cardin (D-MD), have introduced the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act (H.R. 6081 and S. 3058) to eliminate the basis adjustment for federal HTC transactions.
  • This legislative change still preserves the vast majority of the savings achieved by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act and eliminating the basis adjustment will also bring the HTC in line with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which does not require a basis adjustment.
  • Enacting this legislation will strengthen the credit and improve the incentive for building owners who are revitalizing historic properties in communities nationwide. Please co-sponsor the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act, sponsored by Cassidy/Cardin in the Senate (S. 3058) and LaHood/Blumenauer in the House (H.R. 6081).

Topics: policy, federal HTC

Historic Preservation and the Tax Code

Posted by Katherine Ferguson on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Appreciation of historic buildings comes in many forms: well-curated house museums; impressive civic spaces turned cultural hubs; highly-valued homes in historic districts; popular breweries in old warehouses and industrial spaces; grassroots campaigns to save endangered places; tax policy.

Yes, tax policy.

To commemorate the tax season that's upon us, here is a brief history of how and why historic preservation became a political issue and necessarily found it's way into the federal tax code:


  • 1950s & 60s | After World War II, there was a dramatic increase in interstate highway building and the raising of undesirable buildings through a practice called "Urban Renewal" that was sanctioned by government policy. Historic preservation at this time was associated primarily with house museums honoring prominent historic figures. Tax code at this time favored demolition over preservation.
  • 1954 | The Revenue Act of 1954 expanded methods of accelerated depreciation for real assets as a way to counterbalance a mild recession of the era and stimulate the economy. The provision was only extended to new construction, thus disadvantaging maintenance, repair, and preservation of older buildings.

  • 1963 | Pennsylvania (Penn) Station in New York City was demolished. This event is seen as a turning point in the preservation movement as the public began to view the preservation of monumental and architecturally significant buildings as important to the fabric of their communities.

  • 1965 | President Lyndon Johnson included historic preservation principles in his White House Conference on Natural Beauty. Under Johnson's administration, many social issues were addressed using tax policy and he remarked that "the greatest single force that shapes the American landscape is private economic development. Our taxation policies should not penalize or discourage conservation and the preservation of beauty." The Townscape Panel of the conference included two full paragraphs on the topic in its formal report.

  • 1966 | With Heritage So Rich was published as a product of the Townscape Panel meeting in 1965 and included a forward by First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Recommendations for the role of federal government in historic preservation included tax policy including deductibility of preservation expenditures and gifts of easements. Poet George Zabriskie contributed the essay "Window to the Past" that most directly advocated for tax reform that would save old buildings.
As long as we have a society in which the profit motive is operable, we cannot condemn property owners for wishing to profit from their holdings. We can, however, study tax laws at all levels, with the hope of adjusting them to permit profitable remodeling and retention of sound buildings of architectural and historical importance. [Zabriskie]
  • 1966 | The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) was passed with a late addition for a mandated Advisory Council on Historic Preservation tasked with recommending studies including in such areas as "the effects of tax policies at all levels of government on historic preservation."

  • 1969 | To raise revenue in the wake of the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration passed the Revenue Act of 1969 which favored demolition for tax purposes, reducing the after-tax profitability and attractiveness of historic rehabilitation by comparison.

  • 1972 | Ernest Connally, head of the NPS Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation was given an audience with President Nixon and presented the dilemma of demolition of old buildings being advantaged through tax code versus the rehabilitation of them. As a result, Nixon included tax provisions in the Environmental Protection Tax Act of 1972 (EPTA). Owners who demolished certified historic structures would no longer be allowed to deduct the cost of demolition, demolition expenses were added to the adjusted basis of the property, and limited owners to a straight line method of depreciation on any new construction on the same site. This provision bolstered the interest in the National Register for Historic Places, which at the time had only existed a few years and contained approximately 2,800 properties.

  • 1973-1976 | After effective study and advocating by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Action, Senator J. Glenn Beall of Maryland introduced S. 2347, the "Historic Structures Act of 1973." It was included in the Ford Administration's Tax Reform Act of 1976.
The time has clearly come for us to harness the constructive energies in our nation's tax system so as to bring private funds and commercial interests actively and enthusiastically into the field of historic preservation. The time has clearly come for the Congress to wipe away many of the existing tax incentives which run directly counter to our national goals. [Beall]
  • 1981 | Reagan's Economic Recovery Act of 1981 bolstered historic preservation in the tax code by setting the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit (HTC) at 25 percent. In 1984, more than 3,200 projects received Part 2 approval.

  • 1986 | Despite President Reagan's vocal support of the historic tax credit program, his 1984 Tax Reform Act reduced the credit from 25 percent to 20 percent. This greatly reduced the number of applications and approvals through the remainder of the 1980s.

  • 1990s & 2000s | While the lowest number of Part 2 approvals were recorded in 1993, the program grew and thrived without significant changes despite recessions in the past few decades. State HTC programs also began to gain traction during this time and have created additional incentive for real estate developers to invest in local economies.

  • P2017 | The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included the first major change to the HTC since 1986. Projects acquired and started after December 31, 2017 must now take the 20 percent credit in equal installment over five years versus taking the credit in full the year the project is placed in service. While this change will have an affect on future projects, the retention of the 20 percent credit is continuing to stimulate the rehabilitation of historic buildings around the country.

Acknowledgements: For a deeper look at the history of historic preservation and tax policy, read When Preservation Came to the Tax Code, a Spring 2013 ForumJournal article by Andrew Potts.


Topics: federal HTC

National Park Service Releases 2017 HTC Report

Posted by Katherine Ferguson on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

As historic preservation advocates spend the week on Capitol Hill for Preservation Action's Advocacy Week, the National Park Service has released the Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitation Historic Buildings: Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2017

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 9.30.15 AM.png| Click to view

Among the impressive findings for 2017:

  • Over $5.8 billion of private investment was certified (Part 3).
  • Almost 107,000 jobs were created.
  • There was a 16 percent increase in Part 2 approvals, representing an estimated $9.07 billion in QREs.

With FY 2018 well underway, and even with the late 2017 tax law changes, we expect that these trends will continue to show the positive effects of the historic tax credit program on our nation's historic buildings. 

Topics: federal HTC, National Park Service

HTC Watch | Tax Reform One Step Closer

Posted by Bill MacRostie on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hill_Christmas| Architect of the Capitol

The tax reform conference committee issued its report late Friday afternoon and the 20% HTC taken over five years was included, a provision that was introduced in an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) which reinstated the 20% rate from 10% as contained in the original version of the Senate bill. (The 10% credit for non-historic pre-1936 buildings has been completely eliminated.) Overall, this is good news for the historic rehabilitation industry and historic communities across the country. The next step will be the reconciled version of the bill to be voted on by the House and Senate this week, with signature by the President looking likely before Christmas. 

While the five year provision is not ideal, it appears the federal historic tax credit will continue to be a viable program, and hopefully there will be opportunities in the near future to improve the law. (An important note: should the bill pass as is expected, those wanting to qualify for the current federal HTC program must have the "taxpayer" claiming the credit as owner of the building by the end of 2017.)

An unexpected positive development in the conference report was the inclusion of the option for 60-month phased projects under the transition rule. This was a glaring omission from the earlier versions of the bill, which only addressed the 24-month basis test counting period and created uncertainty for current and future phased projects, and was an issue lobbied by the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC).

Many thanks are due those of you that stood with the HTCC to voice your support for the tax credit. We encourage you to reach out and thank the legislators that have been champions for the incentive in critical ways, such as Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). The need for our advocacy is far from over, but we could not have gotten to where we are now without the efforts of all involved.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest on this and other historic tax credit news.  

Topics: federal HTC, tax reform

Historic Tax Credit Legislative Update (from NTCIC)

Posted by Katherine Ferguson on Friday, May 5, 2017

This update comes from Michael Phillips, Public Policy Manager at the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC). 

The legislative environment in Washington has intensified as the Trump Administration moves past its 100th day in office. Today the House passed the American Health Care Act by vote of 217-213. If passed by the Senate, it could bring up to $1 trillion in baseline revenue, which would act as a partial offset to reducing the corporate tax rate.  Overcoming this legislative hurdle, even if the legislation fails to advance in the Senate, creates new momentum in the House to tackle tax reform legislation.

In the tax reform debate, attention shifted to the Administration on April 26th after the White House released its “Core Principles” for tax reform.  National Economic Council Director, Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, highlighted an aggressive cut to corporate and individual tax rates to encourage growth.  Beyond “Eliminat(ing) tax breaks for special interests,” the document provides few details about how the Administration would pay for its proposed rate cuts and is silent about how it would treat specific community development credits. The text of the White House document can be found at:

In the House and Senate, tax reform remains a critical priority. The Ways and Means Committee is continuing its lead role in developing legislative language for a tax reform bill. In late April, Republican members of the Committee participated in a retreat to find common ground on several outstanding questions that must be resolved before tax legislation moves forward.  Despite calls for greater leadership by the Senate to move the tax reform process forward and strong opposition by some Republican Senators to a House-devised Border Adjustment Tax, there has been little indication the Finance Committee is working quickly to assemble its own version of comprehensive tax reform.

Since the Administration announced it had pivoted its legislative priority to tax reform, there have been many statements about when legislation would be signed into law.  Details about the scope and structure of tax reform will be forthcoming, according to the Administration, but the window to complete tax reform appears to run between October 2017 and March of 2018. Many in Washington view the Administration’s statement of tax reform principles as the beginning of a negotiation process. 

The Administration’s engagement presents an important opportunity to advocate for the Historic Tax Credit with the House, Senate, and the Administration. Now is the time for stakeholders to engage and make the case for the HTC with Congress and the Administration. The future of the historic tax credit in tax reform will depend on the ability of advocates, both in DC and at home, to share the value and need for this economic development incentive. Please make plans to engage your member of congress on behalf of the HTC.


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Topics: policy, Advocacy, federal HTC