Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Dr. Thomas J. Straka

Committee Member

Dr. John L. Greene

Committee Member

Dr. Tamara L. Cushing

Committee Member

Dr. Webb M. Smathers

Abstract

Family forest owners control a majority of the South's forest land and nearly half of its growing stock. These owners are a diverse group with widely varied objectives for ownership and management. Many family forest owners manage their holdings for timber production objectives and thus, are concerned with issues such as reforestation incentives and tax treatment of timber revenues. Their actual knowledge of the tax aspects of timber management varies, with some owners unaware of the federal income tax provisions that apply to timber. This study uses econometric techniques to establish socioeconomic predictors of family forest owner use of seven federal income tax provisions under the 2001 public laws. The long-term capital gain treatment of qualifying income, annual deduction of management costs, depreciation and section 179 deduction, and deduction for casualty losses or other involuntary conversions are available to taxpayers in general. The reforestation tax provisions and the ability to exclude qualifying reforestation cost-share payments are specific to family forest owners. Data collected from a mail survey conducted in 2001 with family forest owners in South Carolina is analyzed to show which socioeconomic factors (e.g., size of forest holding, ownership objective, education, age, income) impact whether or not a family forest owner is aware of specific income tax provisions, and more importantly, if the owner is aware of the provisions, which factors impact use of the provisions. Since the initial study was conducted in 2001, prudence would suggest that the findings presented herein may vary from the findings of a like study conducted under the current Internal Revenue Code. Several of the provisions have been altered since the initial study, one of the provisions, the reforestation tax credit, has been eliminated. A two-step sample selection methodology revealed that membership in a landowner organization and size of forest holding positively influence landowner awareness of the seven tax provisions, while ownership objective and level of education exhibit varying degrees of influences. Overall, the findings suggest that size of forest holding is the key determinant that influences landowner use of the provisions. With urban development and other social pressures decreasing average parcel size, additional efforts must be made to educate small family forest landowners on the benefits of the tax provisions offered through the Internal Revenue Code. Tax policy has profound impacts on the profitability of forest management; it also has the potential to be a huge player in the conservation of many forested tracts across the United States. Since size of forest holding was the most significant variable that predicted use of the tax provisions in this study, further research efforts examining the awareness and use of federal tax provisions by family forest owners must be exerted to understand the exact acreage classes in which landowners are more likely to utilize the provisions than not. This one piece of data would enable forestry researchers to develop tools to reach out to those who are not currently using them. If we as society value the many benefits that forests produce, it will be imperative to not only disseminate information on tax provisions, but also educate family forest owners on the benefits of them.

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