Wetlands Taxation

What wetlands are exempt from tax?

Wetlands exempt from tax are identified in Minnesota Statutes, section 272.02, subdivision 11. Exempt wetlands include:

  • Land described in section 103G.005, subdivision 15a
  • Land which is mostly under water, produces little if any income, and has no use except for wildlife or water conservation purposes, provided it is preserved in its natural condition and drainage of it would be legal, feasible and economically practical for the production of livestock, dairy animals, poultry, fruit, vegetables, forage and grains, except wild rice
  • Land in a wetland preservation area under sections 103F.612 to 103F.616

"Wetlands" under items (i) and (ii) include adjacent land which is not suitable for agricultural purposes due to the presence of wetlands, but do not include woody swamps containing shrubs or trees, wet meadows, meandered water, streams, rivers, and floodplains or river bottoms. Exemption of wetlands from taxation pursuant to this section shall not grant the public any additional or greater right of access to the wetlands or diminish any right of ownership to the wetlands.

How are areas exempt from tax?

The property owner must apply for an exemption to the assessor. Land in a wetland preservation area requires a landowner application and county action.

How can I determine if wetland acreage I own is exempt from tax?

You will not be able to determine from your real estate tax statement how the acreage in a specific land parcel is identified for tax purposes. For this determination, you should contact the county assessor's office and ask how the acreage is identified. Lots within a registered subdivision will generally be ineligible for the wetland tax exemption program, but larger acreage may be eligible. Wooded or shrubby wetlands are not eligible for the first and second wetland tax exemption categories, but may be eligible in a wetland preservation area.

What about wetlands previously enrolled in the wetland tax credit program?

The wetland tax credit program was eliminated in 1987, but wetlands previously subject to a wetland tax credit should continue to be exempt from tax, provided they remain in a natural wetland condition. The elimination of the wetland tax credit program did impact the wetland tax exemption program for wetlands identified in Minnesota Statutes, section 272.02, subdivision 11, items (i) and (ii) as the law change also removed the reimbursement procedure language that reimbursed the counties for tax revenue foregone for both the tax credit and tax exemption programs. This change made it less likely for the counties to expand the use of the wetland tax exemption as the tax revenue exempted would have to be made up from the upland areas of the county.

What happens when parcels containing exempt wetlands change owners?

The new property owner must apply for exemption.

Can new requests for wetland tax exemption be processed?

Landowners may request exemption, at any time, for parcels they feel meet the requirements in the statute. Landowners are encouraged to reach out to your county assessor..

If you feel that you have a qualifying wetland that is not identified in the county tax records, take photos of the wetland(s). If possible, obtain a copy of the aerial photo of land. Check with the Soil and Water Conservation District office or Farm Service Agency office. A copy of this photo annotated with an outline of property boundary, an outline of what may be qualifying wetland and some points and arrows showing where accompanying on-the-ground photos have been taken will determine whether the wetland(s) qualify for a tax exemption. .

This information should be discussed at the county tax assessor office. Depending on what adjustments, if any, take place, the landowner has the opportunity to bring this information to their local board of adjustment, as noted in the information with the tax statement.

How are restored wetlands valued for tax purposes?

Lands formerly in pasture or cropland that have been restored to wetlands are valued according to Minnesota Statutes, section 273.11, subdivision 11:

Subd. 11. Valuation of restored or preserved wetland. Wetlands restored by the federal, state or local government, or by a nonprofit organization, or preserved under the terms of a temporary or permanent easement by the federal or state government, must be valued by assessors at fair market value. "Wetland value" in this subdivision means the market value of wetlands in any potential use in which the wetland character is not permanently altered. Wetland value shall not reflect potential uses of the wetland that would violate the terms of any existing conservation easement, or any one-time payment received by the wetland owner under the terms of a state or federal conservation easement. Wetland value shall reflect any potential income consistent with a property's wetland character, including but not limited to lease payments for hunting or other recreational uses. The commissioner of revenue shall issue a bulletin advising assessors of the provisions of this section by October 1, 1991.

For purposes of this subdivision, "wetlands" means lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface of the land is covered by shallow water. For purposes of this definition, wetlands must have the following three attributes:

  1. a predominance of hydric soils;
  2. are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions; and
  3. under normal circumstances support a prevalence of such vegetation.

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