Preservation After Tax Reform

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By Sean Stucker, HC director of facilities

As the dust settles on the tax reform of 2017, preservationists are taking stock of what was won and what was lost.

Following five years of advocacy by a coalition that includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition — as well as countless state and local organizations and individual preservationists—the historic tax credit (HTC) survived the most massive rewrite of the tax code in more than 30 years.

Bolstered by this advocacy and by support from business leaders and other stakeholders across the country, longtime HTC supporters in Congress worked with the House Historic Preservation Caucus to make sure the HTC remained a part of the tax reform conversation.

As a result, an amendment to maintain the HTC at 20 percent was introduced. Notwithstanding the “revenue positive” history of the HTC, holdouts against the amendment insisted the “cost” of the program be offset, which was achieved by requiring the HTC be taken over five years instead of in its entirety the year a rehabilitated building is complete.

The fate of other associated tax credits was a bit of a mixed bag. The 10 percent historic rehabilitation tax credit for pre- 1936 non- historic buildings was eliminated, and, while the nine percent and four percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and the new markets tax credit (NMTC)— which faced elimination in the original House bill—were retained.

The final version did eliminate the ability for NMTCs to offset the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), which means investors may have less incentive to use these credits since they cannot be used to offset other tax liabilities elsewhere.

In the end, advocacy won the day. With their decision to preserve the HTC, Congress affirmed what all preservationists already know: incentivizing historic property redevelopment makes good economic sense.

Moreover, it was affirming to see one of South Carolina’s own senator Tim Scott as a cosponsor of the amendment showing he understands the value of our built history.

To find out how you can support Historic Columbia’s preservation efforts and for more reasons why #PreservationMatters, visit historiccolumbia.org.

This piece was first published in The Columbia Star.