Clean and Green is a preferential tax assessment program that bases property taxes on use values rather than fair market values, often  resulting in a tax savings for landowners. The Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the program in 1974 as a tool to encourage protection of the Commonwealth’s valuable farmland, forestland, and open spaces. Currently, more than 9.6 million acres are enrolled statewide.

Eligibility Requirements

A property must be ten acres in size, and in Agricultural Use, Agricultural Reserve, or Forest Reserve. Agricultural Use applications may be less than 10 acres in size if the property is capable of generating at least $2,000 annually in farm income.

How use values are determined

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture supplies county assessment offices with use values annually. The county may implement these values or use lower values. Agriculture Use and Agriculture Reserve values are the present income the land can generate when put to its highest and best agricultural use. Forest Reserve values are based on the average value of timber in a particular county, or the average value of six timber types by county.

Penalty for change in use

A landowner who breaches the covenant is subject to seven years of rollback taxes, the difference between taxes paid and fair market values, at 6 percent interest per year.

Removing property from CLEAN and GREEN

The landowner may voluntarily remove land from Clean and Green by notifying the county assessor by June 1 of the year immediately preceding the tax year for which removal is requested. Rollback taxes are due upon submission of the request.

Dividing enrolled land

The act allows for two types of divisions or conveyances: “Split offs” and “Separations.” A split off is a division of land into two or more tracts for use of constructing a residence. No more than two acres may be split off per year except if the municipality requires a minimum three-acre subdivision to construct the residence. Cumulative split-offs may never exceed 10 acres or 10 percent of the total land originally enrolled, whichever is less. Rollback taxes would be due only for the land split off. Separation is a division of land into two or more tracts of land that continue to be in Agricultural Use, Agricultural Reserve, or Forest Reserve. The tracts must be at least 10 acres and continue to meet the qualifications. No rollback taxes are due.

Constructing a residence on enrolled land

Enrolled land is entitled to farmstead land that includes a residence, farm buildings, and other supporting buildings.

Non-agricultural activities on CLEAN and GREEN Property

The act allows for a “rural enterprise incidental to the operational unit.” This is defined as a commercial enterprise or venture that is conducted on two acres or less of enrolled land, and when conducted does not permanently impede or otherwise interfere with the production of an agricultural commodity on that portion of enrolled land not subject to roll-back taxes. The two acres on which this enterprise is conducted would be removed from preferential assessment. Rollback taxes would be due with respect to those two acres.

Energy Development

The program provides for oil and gas development with a limited rollback tax penalty. Rollback taxes are only due for those property areas devoted to the activity  as determined by the county assessor upon receipt of a well production report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Similarly, commercial wind production is permitted with rollback taxes limited to those areas devoted to the activity. Tier one alternative energy systems like solar and biomass are permitted without any rollback tax penalty if the majority of energy is utilized on the enrolled tract.

Mining

The program allows for one small non-coal surface mining permit on enrolled land. Rollback taxes are due on the affected areas.

Public Access

Agricultural Reserve is the only category that must remain open to the public for passive recreational uses free-of-charge on a non-discriminatory basis. A landowner may place reasonable restrictions on this, like limiting access after dark, prohibiting hunting and restricting use of motorized vehicles.

Applying for CLEAN and GREEN

The application deadline is June 1 of each year, in order to be considered for the following tax year. The deadline may be extended to October 15 in the year of a reassessment. Contact your county tax assessment office for an application. Once enrolled, landowners not need reapply. Landowners must notify their county tax assessment office if the status of their enrolled land changes.

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