The Catch

All of these programs have a catch. The catch is the same for all programs except the Designated Forest Program which is explained separately below. Now, what’s the catch? Well if the landowner whose land is in any of these programs fails to provide the proof required or removes the land from the intended purpose, then the land will be removed from the program. If this occurs, 7 years of back taxes are due along with interest and penalties. Back taxes are based on the difference between the current use value and the market value and the tax rate in effect for the previous year. Interest is applied at the delinquent rate for the past 7 years and a penalty of 20% is added. The legislature’s purpose for applying the taxes and interest and penalties for removal of land from these programs is to encourage long-term retention of land in these programs.

If the land is being sold and will not be kept in the program, the seller is responsible for paying the back taxes, interest, and penalties. If the land is being sold and the new buyer intends to continue using the land for the intended purpose of the program and signs a continuance on the real estate excise tax affidavit when the property changes hands, no taxes, penalties, or interest will be due. However, if the land is not subsequently used for the intended purpose or appropriate proof is not provided during an audit, it will be removed from the program and the new owner will owe 7 years of taxes, interest, and penalties even if he or she has owned the land for less than 7 years.

Designated Forest Program Catch
As for the Designated Forest Program, the catch is if you remove property from this program you owe up to 10 years of compensating tax. Compensating tax is the difference between the current use tax and full fair market value tax. There are no penalties and interest payments when removing land from this program.

More than 11,500 parcels of land in Spokane County are in the Current Use Program. This includes more than 642,000 acres. If you are interested in placing your land into one of the Current Use Programs, please read the Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) to clear up as many questions you may have. Forms are currently available in the Assessor's Office. Any questions not answered by this article or the FAQs can be answered by contacting the Current Use Appraiser at 509-477-2096.