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.
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.
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.
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).
The Barn Journal offers general information about barns and traditional farm architecture. It is a reader-supported website full of pictures, ideas and resources.
The best source of information is visiting with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. See their Barn Preservation Resources here, or call them at 202.588.6000 or 800.944.6847.