Historic preservation tax change a concern in southern IN

Updated: Dec. 18, 2017 at 5:51 PM EST
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JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) –  Congress is moving forward with plans to change the country's tax code - including cutting corporate taxes and individual tax rates. But they're also talking about changing the historic preservation tax credit that many people use to save historic structures.

The current bill proposes changing the historic preservation income tax credit to a four percent over five-year model instead of the current model ,which has a 20 percent income tax credit over the first year of development.

The historic preservation tax credit has helped turn rundown buildings and homes into thriving businesses in communities like Jeffersonville. But proposed changes to that tax credit by Congress has many in the community concerned.

"We've come a long way to save these old buildings," Carol Stenbro said. "And we don't have quite as many as Louisville ,but at least let's preserve what we have and make it a treasure."

Stenbro and her husband, Steve own the Market Street Inn, Bed and Breakfast in Jeffersonville. They bought the home 15 years ago and spent over three years turning the building from 1881 into the historic Market Street Inn that's become a staple in Jeffersonville.  She said the work getting it to this stage wasn't easy.

"It was a burned out building when we bought it," Stenbro said. "So it was a bit overwhelming and intimidating at the beginning. But we had a vision and we stuck with it." She said they couldn't have managed that without the use of the historic preservation tax credit.

Many of the historic buildings around Jeffersonville and southern Indiana were rehabilitated using the tax credit, including Schimpff's Confectionery.

Greg Sekula, Director of the Southern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, said it's vital to keep historic buildings standing.

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"I mean, these buildings are irreplaceable," Sekula said. "We can't build them today. So what we lose, we lose forever. Whether it's the Masonic Temple here in Jeffersonville or Whiskey Row in Louisville, these historic buildings are a signature part of our identity."

Sekula said they're concerned that Congress was considering cutting the credit as part of the tax reform bill. The latest bill before Congress includes the credit but would spread it out at four percent over five years.  Sekula said he worries the change would deter people from rehabilitating these buildings that are already costly.

But so long as the credit is included in the Congressional tax plan, Sekula said it's a cause for relief.

"We're thankful that the credit at least for now seems to have survived and will be in the tax bill that's deliberated by Congress this week," Sekula said.

"I think that the tax credit acts as an encouragement to save these old buildings, and they're treasures," Stenbro said. "And once they're torn down and gone, they're not going to be back."

She said she hopes to see the tax credit continue as is, so others in the area are encouraged to preserve a piece of history just like she and her husband did.

The House is expected to vote on the proposed tax overhaul bill on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to take up the bill with a vote either Tuesday or Wednesday.

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