Rehab a house, get a break

Tax breaks to renovate

For more information about tax incentives for those who renovate historic properties, contact the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission at 840-8842 or the Mississippi Department of Archives and History at (601) 576-6940.

By Emily Le Coz
Daily Journal

TUPELO – If a love of history doesn't save the city's architectural past, preservationists here hope tax breaks will.

So, they're spreading the word about some financial incentives for people who renovate old buildings.

“If your property is on the National Historic Register and is income-producing, then you can qualify for federal and state tax credits that benefit your rehab project and maintenance on that project for years,” said Desha Cruse, chairwoman of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission.

Several buildings and neighborhoods are on the register but many more could qualify, said Cruse, adding that May is the National Trust for Historic Preservation's third annual National Preservation Month.

If the property qualifies, owners could be eligible for a 20 percent federal tax credit and a 25 percent state tax credit on expenses per year, she said.

Tupelo also has a tax-exemption program for properties renovated in the historic downtown area. The city assesses the building at its purchase price -regardless of what it's worth after renovations – for up to seven years, said city planner Pat Falkner.

Attorney Gary Carnathan is one of several developers who took advantage of these incentives when he renovated seven historic houses on the 300 block of North Broadway.

“It's a complicated process,” he said, “but it's worth it to do.”

Carnathan first had the block placed on the National Register of Historic Places to qualify for the incentives. Then he took photographs of each house before he began renovations, followed the National Register's guidelines in doing the work, kept detailed reports of all expenses relating to the project, and submitted that data – plus photos of the completed house – to the National Park Service, which certifies everything.

Carnathan termed the savings “significant,” noting that he puts hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovations and that 20 percent or 25 percent tax credits cushions the expense.

The savings are nice, said history buff Carnathan, but even better is the satisfaction of having preserved a slice of Tupelo's past.

“Had I not walked into that situation, this street would have been a parking lot for the courthouse,” he said. “I wanted to save all the history that we have, because in the past Tupelo hasn't been very good at that.”

Contact Daily Journal city reporter Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.