Photo by James Jordan. See more of Jordan's work here.
Along the countryside, you can see them, strong barns and buildings that show the dedication and hard work of farmers and ranchers, past and present. To preserve a part of history and return debilitated barns to their days of glory, owners can seek assistance through state and federal tax credits or incentives.
This page will look at both federal and state incentives, where available, and other resources that can help you in your quest to restore a barn or other building.
Declaring Your Barn or Building “Historic”
Most often, these credits and incentives apply to buildings that have been designated as historic and are income-producing. Many states require your building to be registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
Property Tax Incentives
Many states have a “local option” for property tax incentives, which means that a local government must approve the use of the incentive within its jurisdiction. Check with your local government and state historic preservation office to find out if you can take advantage of property tax incentives.
Federal Rehabilitation Tax Incentive
The National Park Service in conjunction with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program offers a 20 percent federal tax credit for qualified rehabilitation expenses. Property owners across the country have already used these tax incentives to rehabilitate a wide range of historic barns.
To be eligible, the building must be registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
If a restored or rehabilitated building has a business use, depreciation may be claimed to the extent of the taxpayer’s basis in the property, which includes the funds provided by the taxpayer for rehabilitation. Barns are generally depreciable over 20 years under IRS rules. If a credit is claimed, depreciation is usually limited to straight line depreciation – the same allowance each year over the 20-year life. Otherwise, it may be possible to step up depreciation to one and one-half times the straight line rate.
Photo by Dana French.
Grants and Loans for Private Individuals
Very few grant and loan programs exist for private individuals, but it's worth checking to see if your locality has any help to offer. Contact your local preservation organization, county development office, state historic preservation office, and/or statewide preservation organization for more information.
Iowa Barn Foundation provides resources, both in Iowa and nationally, such as preservation organizations and a list of contractors (Midwestern states).
Barn Again! is a national program that provides information to help owners of historic barns rehabilitate them and put them back to productive use on farms and ranches. BARN AGAIN! provides technical assistance through a BARN AGAIN! Hotline (303) 623-1504.
For information about Federal tax credits for rehabilitating barns, see Federal Tax Credits for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.
The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, known as the "Farm Bill" in 2002 created the Historic Barn Preservation Program, in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will undertake research and disseminate information on the history and preservation needs of historic barns. The program also includes a grant component, whereby USDA will grant funds to States and non-profit organizations to preserve and rehabilitate historic barns. To date, this program has not been funded.
The Barn Journal offers general information about barns and traditional farm architecture. It is a reader-supported website full of pictures, ideas and resources.
Historic Preservation Frequently Asked Questions (Link opens PDF)
Historic Barns: Working Assets for Sustainable Farming (Links opens PDF): This website shares a few case studies of barn restoration and what the owners have done to turn their old barns into income-producing mechanisms on their farms.
The best source of information is visiting with the BarnAgain Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They can be reached at 1785 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036-2117 or by phone 202.588.6000 or 800.944.6847.
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