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Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit (Historic Tax Credit)

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The Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, otherwise known as the Historic Tax Credit, is one of the most powerful historic preservation tools we have. Recognizing the cost associated with rehabilitating historic buildings, the Historic Tax Credit provides a 20% income tax credit to developers of income producing properties such as office buildings, retail establishments, rental apartments, and others.

Established first in 1976, since its inception, the tax credit has resulted in the preservation of more than 45,000 buildings and generated over $102 billion in estimated rehabilitation investment. In 2019 alone, 1,042 completed projects generated $5.7 billion in rehabilitation work and created 172,416 low and moderate income housing units. Recent studies have shown that far from being a subsidy, the historic tax credit actually stimulates more revenue than it costs – meaning it is a win-win for the American people.

SHPOs review Historic Tax Credit projects to assure their consistency with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and the National Park Service provides the final “certification” necessary for each project. To learn more about the Historic Tax Credit, visit the National Park Service website (http://www.nps.gov/tps/tax-incentives.htm), and the website of your SHPO.

Legislative News

In June of 2020, the House passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that includes a provision that would increase the federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) from 20% to 30% for 5 years. It also includes several provisions of the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity Act (H.R. 2825 and S. 2615) including permanently increasing the HTC to 30% for certain smaller projects. Even if the House bill does not become law, it is likely to be used as a template for future bills and if that happens, there is a good chance that the HTC provisions will be in those future bills. NCSHPO and our members support these efforts to expand the HTC. A more robust HTC would both help preserve the places that are important to communities throughout the country and strengthen local economies.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are the sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity Act. Although the bills are slightly different, they both would eliminate the HTC basis adjustment requirement. The elimination of the basis adjustment requirement increases the value of the HTC and is intended to recapture value that was lost when the HTC was changed in a 2017 tax bill from being a 20% tax credit in one year to a 20% tax credit spread over five years. Both bills also would:

  • Increase the credit from 20 to 30% for projects with rehabilitation expenses of less than $2.5 million;
  • Make it easier to meet the substantial rehabilitation test; and,
  • Creating greater flexibility for nonprofit organizations to access HTC benefits.

Click here to learn more about the HTC Go Act.

Reports about the Federal Historic Tax Credit

National Park Service: Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings – Annual Report for FY 2019 (pdf / 2MB)

National Park Service & Rutgers University: Economic Impact of Federal Historic Tax Credit-2019, National Park Service & Rutgers University (pdf / 3.8MB)