Parcels that are used to grow a crop or graze livestock, with the primary purpose of producing a profit, can be classified as Agricultural in Routt County. To qualify for this classification, the property owner must be able to provide clear evidence of such use to the County Assessor. To establish or regain the agriculture classification, one must show proof of agricultural use for three consecutive years. In the third year the property can be classified Agriculture. If the land is not being used agriculturally, it is classified based on its primary use, such as vacant, residential, commercial, or industrial.
Agricultural classification means the property’s value is based on its potential agricultural income value instead of market value. In Routt County there is a substantial difference in agricultural land value compared to market value thus, higher property taxes for non-agricultural land. However, the assessment ratio for agricultural outbuildings is much higher than for residential outbuildings. Large, valuable outbuildings may offset some or all of the land tax savings.
Agricultural classification is based on use of the land regardless of zoning. A zoning of Ag/Forestry does not equate with an Agricultural classification.
Criteria for Agricultural Classification
Primary use of the land is to obtain a monetary profit from the land’s production of an agricultural product. Agricultural use, as defined by the State of Colorado, means using the land as a farm or ranch. A farm is generally planting, harvesting, and selling a crop such as wheat, oats, barley, or hay. A ranch is defined as a grazing operation of domestic animals for human or animal consumption. Horse operations may be
considered agricultural if the horses are used for breeding and selling, or another commercial use, such as guide and outfitting. Pleasure horses and 4-H projects are not considered an agricultural operation. Pigs and chickens do not qualify as grazing animals. Horticultural operations are considered agricultural if the product is grown in the soil. Parcels of 40 acres or more can be classified Agricultural if they are in a forestry program administered by the Colorado State Forest Service.
To maintain the Agriculture tax classification, proof of agricultural use is required by the Assessor. Such items as the Schedule E or F or Form 4835 of your federal tax return, copy of leases with proof of payment, bills of sale for products bought or sold, brand inspection certificates, etc., can be submitted. The Assessor will periodically view parcels for verification of agricultural activity. Any questions regarding the current classification of land or possible agricultural uses of land should be directed to the Assessor’s Office in the Routt County Courthouse at 522 Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs or by calling (970) 870-5544.