Washington Hearings Tackle Horse Farm Tax Issues

Operators of horse boarding and training farms in Washington state are poised to pack Department of Revenue hearing chambers Nov. 13 to convince the agency that their businesses should be included in statutory definitions that entitle farm operators to property tax breaks under the state's Open Space Taxation Act of 1970.

Currently, the act's definition of commercial agricultural purposes includes business engaged in feeding, breeding, managing, and selling livestock. Horse boarding, training, and equestrian instruction businesses do not qualify under that definition.

Farm operators that meet definition requirements pay taxes as low as 10% of their best use value. In some Washington counties, non-breeding equine operations have tax benefit status, but in others such operations do not qualify. The hearings are aimed at eliminating that inconsistency.

"We are trying to get public input to decide what we can do to amend or not amend the commercial agriculture definition," said Brad Flaherty, assistant director of the Washington Department of Revenue Property Tax Division.

Ken Starr, president of the Save Our Farms Coalition, an alliance of non-breeding horse industry operators, fears some operators will begin breeding horses solely to gain this tax status if the definitions are not expanded.

"With the unwanted horse problem as it is, that's the last thing we need," he said.

Hearings are slated for Nov. 13 at the General Administration Auditorium in Olympia. Additional hearings will take place Dec. 4 in Yakima. For more information or to comment on the issue, contact Marilou Rickert of the Department of Revenue, Interpretations and Technical Advice Division, at MarilouR@dor.wa.gov.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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