Historic tax credit repeal could affect downtown development

Historic tax credit repeal could affect downtown development
Historic tax credit repeal could affect downtown development

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- A federal tax bill going to President Trump’s desk soon could impact redevelopment efforts in downtown Augusta. The Federal Historic Tax Credit gives a big break to developers bringing historic buildings up to code and back into use. Recently, it’s been used to renovate several prominent downtown buildings. Some say scrapping the program could put a dent in development.

Downtown Augusta has blossomed in recent years. Many familiar sites have been brought up to date using historic tax credits. Think Farmhaus Burgers, Craft and Vine, and loft apartments.

“There are a number of projects like that that could be stopped in their tracks,” said Bryan Haltermann, president of downtown development company Haltermann Partners Inc.

The tax bill passed in the U.S. House would scrap that federal tax break used to incentivize developers to invest in old buildings. It gives a 20 percent break at the federal level, which is further supplemented by a 25 percent break at the state level in Georgia.

“You could almost cut a rehab cost in half by using both the state and federal programs,” said Robyn Anderson, who is the preservation services director at Historic Augusta.

For example, investors in the $22 million renovation in the Miller Theater, could write off about $4.4 million in federal taxes.

But what about the national deficit?

“For every dollar that is given back as a tax credit, $1.20 is put back into the treasury,” Anderson said. “It creates jobs. It puts buildings back on…the county’s tax roles.”

So far this year, Historic Augusta has filed at about 17 applications for the tax credits, Anderson says. Several downtown developments, including putting TaxSlayer at the old YMCA, an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into the old Sibley and King Mills, as well as Bryan Haltermann’s plan to put two restaurants and several apartments on Broad Street, would use the credit.

“For downtown Augusta, you know the wave isn’t quite cresting yet,” Haltermann said. “Everything’s kind of coming into play the way it hasn’t for the last 40 years.”

The bill passed in the Senate keeps the tax credit but has it paid out over five years. Lawmakers are working on a compromise bill that will go to President Trump’s desk. The final bill’s position on the Historic Tax Credit is unclear.

NewsChannel 6 reached out to Augusta’s U.S. Representative Rick Allen. An aide responded in an email with the following statement from Congressman Allen:

“I am aware of this issue and have spoken with community leaders in our district about the potential effects. This week the House and Senate voted on a motion to go to conference, where the final tax bill will be debated and finalized.”

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