Tax Credit Programs FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

This page covers popular questions about both the state and federal tax credits that are overseen by the Texas Historical Commission.

Starting your application

Planning your project

Completing your project

General Questions

Questions Regarding 2017 Legislation Changes

 

Q. I’m interested in applying for tax credits for my building. What are my first steps?

A. Congratulations! Your first step is to find out whether your building currently has any pertinent federal or state historical designations. Properties that are federally designated on the National Register of Historic Places (individually, or as a contributing part of a National Register Historic District), can be eligible for state or federal tax credits. Additionally, properties that have the state designations of Recorded Texas Historic Landmark or State Antiquities Landmark can also be eligible for state tax credits.

If your building is not yet designated under any of these programs, you may submit Part 1 (federal) or Part A (state) of the tax credit application to request a determination on whether the building is eligible for historical designation. If the building is determined eligible, you may proceed with the tax credit process while the building is becoming designated. Be advised that the designation process, including research, may take up to 18 months; therefore, the process should be undertaken as quickly as possible. For more information on obtaining historical designations for state tax credit projects, view our Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit Application Guide (for state projects), or see our page about the National Register of Historic Places. You may also contact Greg Smith in our History Programs Division for questions about individual buildings.

Second, make sure that your project will meet the basic requirements for the tax credit program you want to apply for. There are different minimum cost thresholds for both the federal and state programs, and your property must be an income-producing (business) use to qualify for either credit. Work must not be completed before the project is reviewed and approved by the THC. More information on project requirements can be found on our program pages:

Federal requirements: Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program

State requirements: Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program

Last, but certainly not least, contact the THC's Tax Credit Program Administrative Specialist to discuss your rehabilitation project. We can help you to assess whether your proposed project may meet the Secretary's Standards for Rehabilitation, and answer any questions you may have about the tax credit process.

Q. I already started working on my building. Can I still apply for tax credits?

A. If your project is underway but not completed, you may still apply. However, there are a series of challenges you should be aware of.

First, any major portions of the project that are completed and paid for are not eligible for tax credits unless you have already submitted an application for that work. Second, you will need to contact the THC right away to make sure that the work you've already started and the work you have planned is in line with the standards. Third, when you submit your Part 2 or Part B application, you will still need to provide comprehensive photos of the property—interior and exterior—showing its condition before any work was done.

For these reasons, we never recommend starting work before consulting with the THC.

Q. I already completed my project. Can I still apply?

A. In most cases, no. Applications must be submitted before completion of the project (or any major part of it).

However, if you completed a project between September 1, 2013 and January 1, 2015, then you may be able to apply for the state tax credit program retroactively. Contact us for more information.

Q. What are the differences between the federal and state tax credit programs?

A. The standards for architectrual preservation are the same for both programs, and we encourage concurrent application to both. However, there are many differences in eligibility requirements, financial details, etc. Please see our comparison chart for more information. Also note that the state tax credit is now available to non-profits. This takes effect for projects completed after January 1, 2016.

Q. What building uses are acceptable for a tax credit project? How can I find out if my proposed use will be eligible?

A. For either the state or the federal credit, properties may be repurposed for a primarily income-producing use. Common uses include rental apartments, business offices, hotels, restaurants, and retail. For the federal credit, the property must be at least 51 percent income-producing, and credits are only available for work completed on the income-producing portion of the property.

For the state credit, properties may also be used by official non-profit organizations, such as churches, museums, arts centers, etc.

We cannot pre-approve uses for specific projects; therefore, any individual questions about project eligibility should be directed to your tax attorney.

Q. Does it matter how my property is zoned?

A. No, all that matters for the tax credit program is the property's use. As long as your zoning allows you to achieve an appropriate rental or business use, then your zoning is appropriate to begin a tax credit project.

Q. Can my non-profit corporation qualify for tax credits?

A. Non-profit corporations may receive credits through the state program, either for income-producing properties, or for non-profit use properties beginning January 1, 2016. Remember that the state tax credit is freely transferable, so you may sell your credit if you are not liable for the business franchise tax.

Non-profits may only apply for the federal tax credit program by creating a business partnership with a for-profit financial backer, who becomes the recipient of the non-transferable income tax credit. Please contact your lawyer or accountant for advice on structuring such partnerships.

Q. Can my local governmental entity qualify for tax credits?

A. Governmental entities and government-use buildings are not eligible to participate directly in the state and federal tax credit programs.

The definition for eligible costs and expenses in IRS Section 42(c)(2) includes depreciation and tax-exempt use provisions which must be met and generally appear to preclude use of the credit by governmental bodies. Buildings owned by governmental entities may be eligible for the state and federal tax credit programs, if the building is operated by a long-term lessee (requiring a 39+ year lease), then that lessee is considered to have an ownership interest. If that lessee uses the building for an eligible business or non-profit use and incurs all project costs, then that lessee would be able to participate in the tax credit program(s) as if they were the owner of the building.

Q. How much money do I need to spend in order to qualify?

A. For the federal program, you must spend at least the amount of the adjusted basis of the building, or $5,000.00, whichever is greater, for your qualified rehabilitation costs. The adjusted basis refers to the monetary value of the building (not including the land) at the time of application, considering any prior improvements and/or depreciation. Contact an assessor or accountant to determine your adjusted basis. This amount also must be spent within a 24-month period to pass the Substantial Rehabilitation Test.

For the state program, the minimum expenditure for qualified rehabilitation costs is $5,000.00, regardless of the value of the building. There is no specific time period when this must be spent, but it must be for projects completed after submittal of a Part B, not before.

Q. What parts of the building and site are reviewed?

A. All parts of the historic building, both interior and exterior, are reviewed using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. All changes are assessed to make sure the project conforms to these standards in the context of the tax credit requirements.

Site and landscape work, work to noncontributing structures and outbuildings, new additions, and new construction on the site are also reviewed, but only in relation to how they affect the historic building.

Q. How do I know what I can do to my property?

A. The best way to find out is to consult with the THC.

There is no quick answer, as every property is different. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are general guidelines that can be applied to all projects, and staff at the THC and NPS are trained and experienced in interpreting these guidelines to fit individual cases. It's important to note that any changes to both the building's interior and exterior are reviewed to determine whether the Standards for Rehabilitation have been met.

In general, the standards require a project to minimize the amount of changes to a property, and prioritize the retention of historic features, materials, and spaces that define its character. For any feature of the building, its visibility and significance determines how much of a priority it is and how much change might be acceptable. Any proposed changes outside the building, such as new additions or site work, also need to be appropriate to the building even if they are not qualified rehabilitation expenditures. Upon request, the THC staff can informally or formally work with you to help you develop a project that is determined to meet the Standards for Rehabilitation.

Q. What expenses count as Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditures (or QREs)?

A. Generally speaking, expenses that are directly used for rehabilitating the historic building itself are eligible. Eligible costs generally include work performed on anything from the skin of the building inwards, including windows, roof, floors, ceilings, walls, plumbing, electrical, elevators, and HVAC. Many soft costs, such as architects’ fees, are eligible as well.

Costs that do NOT count toward the QREs include furnishings that are not part of the building, work on the site and landscape, new additions, new construction, and costs of purchasing the property. Note that all work on the property is still reviewed, even if it does not count toward your QREs.

See a longer list of allowed and disallowed Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditures.

Q. What happens if I have to make changes to my project during construction?

A. If the project changes at any time, you must submit an amendment form to the THC so the new version of your project may be reviewed and approved.

Q. How do I know when my project is done? What does “placed in service” mean?

A. When 1) the items that you proposed in Part 2/B and associated amendments are demonstrably complete, and 2) you are able to return the building to use, then your rehabilitation project is considered complete and you may submit your Part 3/C: Request for Certification of Completed Work. If the building was continuously used and operated throughout the rehabilitation, then your project is complete when the proposed items are complete, and (if applicable) the portion of the building that was under construction is able to be used.

The Placed in Service date is a date supplied by the applicant, reflecting the date that the project was completed. If you received a Certificate of Occupancy, you may choose to use that date assuming that all the QREs submitted are for work undertaken after the building was most recently taken out of service.

Important: For the state tax credit, you are required to submit documentation to prove your Placed in Service, or completion date. You must submit either 1) a Certificate of Occupancy, or 2) an architect's Certificate of Substantial Completion, form G705, which includes signatures of the architect, contractor, and owner associated with all work for which the credit is requested. The form must reference a set of construction documents, and/or include a detailed description of work that clearly matches the scope addressed in the tax credit application.

Q. When do I receive the tax credits?

A. In the federal program, when your Part 3: Request for Certification of Completed Work is approved, you are eligible for tax credits in the amount specified by the NPS and IRS. You may claim them on your income tax return beginning in the year the project was completed, and carry the credit forward up to 20 years.

The state program has a few additional steps in this process. When your Part C: Request for Certification of Completed work has been approved by the THC, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility, which will become one part of an application to establish your credit with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The submittal of this certificate for franchise tax credit is further described in the rules for this program developed by the Comptroller. Submission to the Comptroller will require an audited cost report and further application materials: visit the Comptroller's tax credit information page for further guidance on this program.

Q. After I complete the project, can I sell my property?

A. The federal tax credit program has a five-year recapture period after completion of the project, during which you cannot sell the property or make inappropriate changes. If you must sell the property within that time, you will forfeit part or all of your tax credits. Find a description of recapture in the National Park Service's FAQ.

The state program does not have a recapture period, so you may sell your property, if you wish, after the certificate of eligibility has been issued by the THC.

Q. Can I sell my tax credits? How does it work, and how do I find a buyer?

A. Federal income tax credits are not transferable. Only the original applicant may use them. If the original applicant is a partnership, then entities within that partnership may use the credits.

The state tax credit is freely transferable. Credits may be transferred multiple times, to multiple parties. Once you receive the certificate for your credit, you may elect to sell all or part of it to another party or parties. It is up to the recipient to set up private transaction with those parties and create a contract for any payment that is involved. To transfer the credit, you must resubmit your credit certificate, along with appropriate paperwork naming the recipient, to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. They will then reissue credits to the appropriate recipient(s). Find out more by visiting the Comptroller's website.

Any company that incurs Texas business franchise tax (also known as margins tax) may be able to purchase credits. Only large companies incur franchise tax and are able to use these credits. Consider asking large companies or banks in your community if they are interested in buying. Tax credit syndicators and other financial capital companies are also interested in purchasing franchise tax credits. Please note that the THC is not able to match recipients with buyers.

Q. Is there a deadline for completing my project?

A.You may complete your project at your own pace. If your application has had no activity for a long period of time, our office and the National Park Service office may contact you to check whether your project is moving forward or if it has been canceled.

For the federal tax credit program, be aware that the substantial rehabilitation test requires that enough qualified expenditures be incurred to exceed the adjusted basis within a limited timeframe (24 months, or 60 months for a phased project), and that timeframe must not end more than 12 months before project completion. If this requirement is fulfilled, then all qualified expenditures, even outside this window, are eligible. Read more about the substantial rehabilitation test.

Q. Is there a deadline for submitting my Part 3/C and getting my completed project certified?

A. No, the date on which your completed project is certified does not affect your eligibility for the tax credit. The completion date (Placed In Service date) of your project determines which tax year(s) the credit may be applied to.For instance, a project completed in September 2017 will generate credits that may be taken against 2017 taxes (and subsequent years until the credit expires). There is no requirement that the completed project must be certified in the same year that the project is completed.

In the example above, the 2017 project could be certified in 2018, and the credit would still be taken against 2017 taxes. If that applicant were to wait to certify their project until a time that they could no longer amend their 2017 taxes, then their credit could not be taken against their 2017 taxes.

Q. Do I need to get my building historically designated for this program? What is that process like?

A. Yes, if your property is not already designated individually OR contributing within a designated historic district, you will need to pursue formal historic designation. This process is separate process from the architectural project review, and is overseen by the History Programs Division at our agency. Applicants typically pursue designation at the same time that they are completing their tax credit application process and construction project. For the state program, all participating properties must become officially designated prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility for a completed project, whereas the federal program allows for additional time after the project is completed.

The designation process, from beginning to end, will usually take at least one calendar year. Read more about the process for National Register designation and Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation.

Q. What are the time limits for accruing expenses for the purposes of certification?

A. The timing of your application submission does not affect which costs may be certified for the program. Generally speaking, expenses can be counted from the start date of the project until the end of the calendar year in which the project is completed. The start date can be determined by the beginning of planning work, such as architectural draings or structural investigations, or by the beginning of construction work, if there is no eligible planning work. If some or all of the work has been completed, the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that a particular scope of work is all one project. 

(For retroactive projects under the state tax credit program (completed 9/1/13 to 1/1/15, or 1/1/16 for non-profits), there is a limit of 60 months for eligible costs.)

Q. How do I calculate and submit my application fees?

A. For the state program, your application fees for Parts B and C should be submitted by check along with your application. The amount of the application fee for your project is based on your estimate of your Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditures. Please see How to Submit and our Application Guide for further information on our application fees.

For the federal program, you will be billed electronically by the National Park Service for Parts 2 and 3. This billing request will be sent by email to the official applicant or owner on record, at the time that the application is received by the NPS office. Please ensure you do not miss this email. NPS will calculate your review fee based on the size of your project. Please see the NPS website for their fee schedule and more information.

For both programs, please note that project review fees must be received in order to conduct a formal written review, and fees are not refundable.

Q. Is the information in tax credit applications available to the public? 

A.Yes, much of the information in a tax credit application – including application data, contact information, forms, and photos – is a matter of open record, and is subject to public information requests through the Freedom of Information Act. Information which may be considered confidential or intellectual property such as project costs and architectural plans can only be released through a separate process where the third party is first notified and allowed to object to release of the information. Private data such as individuals’ Social Security Numbers are redacted from any information released to the public.

Please see our webpage to learn more about the Freedom of Information Act, including procedures for submitting an open records request.

Q. Who reviews the cost reports for state tax credit projects?

A. Audited cost reports are submitted to the Texas Office of the Comptroller by the applicant as part of the final credit application process (which begins after you receive your Certificate of Eligibility from the THC). Our office does not receive or review any cost reports as part of this program, however we do provide general information on eligible costs and expenses and may identify portions of the project which are not eligible for the credit. Please visit the Comptroller’s website for more information on their procedures.

Q. If my project has proceeded without prior review and is now partially or fully complete, what is the best way to present my Part 2/Part B?

A. Early consultation with THC during the planning phase is definitely preferred, rather than applying after demolition or construction work has started. If work has already taken place, your application should clearly describe the work you have already done, as well as the future work, and clearly distinguish and separate the two. Do not write about completed work as if it is future work. On the Part B form, make sure you have correctly filled out the date fields that identify the dates that individual work items have started and completed. In addition to including a full set of “before” photos, the application must include a set of photos documenting the current conditions in any areas where work has already been done. Please see How To Submit for additional guidance on submission content.

Please note that in accordance with program rules, fully completed projects are not generally eligible for these programs unless a Part A and/or Part 1 have been submitted prior to project completion – please check eligibility criteria or contact us for more information.

Q. How does tax credit review relate to my local historic design review?

A. Tax credit review is completely separate from any other process for permitting your project. If a project has been approved or denied by a local review authority such as a landmark commission or code official, or through a Section 106 or RTHL (exterior-only) review at the state level, this does not affect the tax credit determination. Local design review authorities also often have limitations to their review authority, such as only publicly visible exterior changes, whereas the tax credit review process, for example, will also assess the appropriateness of interior work.

In addition, local review authorities typically perform a review of final construction plans, whereas our review process typically should be started earlier to confirm that the project will fully be able to meet our program requirements. For this reason, we generally recommend that tax credit applications be reviewed by our office before the project is submitted for any applicable local reviews.   

Q. Can I subdivide one federal tax credit project into multiple state tax credit projects (for cash flow or other purposes)?

A. Absolutely. There are a few key requirements you need to keep in mind:

  1. Your project must be submitted to the National Park Service as a phased project, and officially identified as a phased project on the federal application. The phases of construction should relate to defined portions of your scope of work, which must be laid out in your Part 2 application.
  2. Each of your applications for the state credit should line up with the individual project phases as identified in the federal application.
  3. When closing out a state project that is also a phase of a federal tax credit project, you must submit for an Advisory Determination from the National Park Service for approval of that phase before THC is able to certify the corresponding state tax credit application.

Q. If I am applying to both historic tax credit programs, how does approval timing work?

For simultaneous applications, the state determination will follow the federal (NPS) determination for each part of the application. This means that the federal application submittal (i.e. a Part 1, 2, 3 or amendment) will be processed first, while the state application submittal (i.e. a Part A, B, C or amendment) is put on hold. THC staff will first review the federal application and send it to NPS with our recommendations.  Once NPS has made a determination on the federal submittal and notified the THC (typically by mail once a month), our office will make a determination on the corresponding state submittal. This process means that the state and federal reviews will not be concurrent, even if the submittals are sent together.

An applicant may also elect to submit only the federal application and wait to receive the determination on it before submitting the state application, if they wish to know the outcome prior to paying the review fee for the state tax credit application.

Q. Will THC staff visit my building as part of this process?

A. Generally, all projects participating in the state tax credit program will receive a site visit from THC staff upon completion of the rehabilitation (after the Part C is submitted with appropriate completion documentation). Site visits before or during construction are not required, and may be coordinated on a case-by-case basis depending on necessity and staff availability. A consultation and/or site visit by staff prior to formal application is possible and no fee is charged, however, staff comments must be regarded as informal and non-binding based on the limitations of the information presented.

Q. I’m interested in participating in the tax credit program for a specific project, but I don’t yet know my exact scope of work or construction schedule. Can I start the application process?

A. Yes, you can, by completing a Part 1/Part A application. Submitting a Part 1/Part A application does not require you to have the project fully planned, but it informs our office that you intend to participate in the program. Note that having a Part 1/Part A on file regardless can ensure that your project will not be disqualified from the program if your project proceeds more quickly than anticipated, since this step must be taken before the project is completed in order to be eligible for the program.

We also recommend that you start a dialogue with the THC on your proposed project even when you don’t have enough information or drawings to submit a complete draft of the Part 2/B. There are no fees associated with an informal discussion and it is not binding on the applicant.

Q. I’m interested in participating in the tax credit program for a specific project, but I don’t yet own the building. Can I start the application process?

A. You do NOT need to own the property in order to submit a Part 1/Part A, as long as the property owner has consented in writing to your application.

Q. I have questions about the general eligibility of my project for the program(s). Who should I contact?

A. The state and federal preservation tax credit programs are administered by the Division of Architecture.  You may call the tax credit programs’ administrative specialist, Nick Barrett, at 512.475.0129 for additional information or to be directed to one of the tax credit project reviewers. 

Q. I have questions about filling out and sending my application. Who should I contact?

A. Questions about completing, submitting, and processing applications should be directed to administrative specialist Nick Barrett at 512.475.0129. Also check How To Submit as well as our online application guide.

Q. I have questions about the historic eligibility of my building. Who should I contact?

A. Historic eligibility and designation questions should be directed to Judy George-Garza, National Register staff in the History Programs Division at 512.463.8452. Greg Smith is the National Register Program Coordinator.

Q. How do I check the status of my application?

A. You can always check the status of your federal application on the NPS website.Their site is updated manually so there may be a slight delay. If you would like to check the status of your state application, please contact Nick Barrett at 512.475.0129.

Q. Which taxes can the state tax credit be applied to?

A. As of May 4, 2017, the state preservation tax credit may be used against either business franchise taxes or insurance premium taxes. Senate Bill 550, changed the Section 171.908(e) of the Texas Tax Code to permit the credit to be claimed against Texas insurance premium tax by an entity that is subject to that tax under Chapters 221, 222, 223 or 224 of the Insurance Code. A tax credit certificate received by the owner may be transferred to an entity subject to the insurance premium tax in a manner similar to that used for franchise tax credit transfer. Please see the following question for timing requirements for using the credit against insurance premium tax.

Q. What is the first insurance premium tax report on which the state tax credit can be applied?

A. The 2017 insurance premium tax report due March 1, 2018 is the first report on which an entity may claim this credit. In all other respects, the state preservation credit applies to insurance premium taxpayers in the same manner as it applies to franchise taxpayers. Additional information can be found in 34 TAC Rule §3.598 (Margin: Tax Credit for Certified Rehabilitation of Certified Historic Structures).

Q. Can public universities participate?

A. House Bill 1003 passed in the 85th Legislative Session and it allows state institutions of higher education and university systems to participate. As defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, an institution of higher education means any public technical institute, public junior college, public senior college or university, medical or dental unit, public state college, or other agency of higher education. All other aspects of the program rules and requirements apply however for these institutions note that the dates that eligible project costs can be incurred is only between June 14, 2017 and January 1, 2022. The Commission will be amending the program rules in the Texas Administrative Code to address this change in late 2017 and make an effort to notify state universities of project eligibility. Read more about tax credits for state institutions of higher education here.

Q. Can municipalities or counties participate?

A. It appears that the enabling legislation does not permit governmental bodies to be exempted from the depreciation and tax exempt-use provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 47(c)(2), therefore county and city owned buildings may only participate if the local government enters in to a long-term lease agreement with a for-profit or not for profit entity and that entity incurs the cost. City Economic Development Corporation (EDCs), however, can be classified as 4A sales tax corporations and this may qualify as a tax-exempt organization under Chapter 171 of the Tax Code.