Plant a Forest and Lower Your Tax Bill
Posted: February 17, 2020
Planting trees on your property has many benefits. A new forest will clean the air, invite wildlife, reduce erosion, add beauty and sequester carbon. But did you know that your new forest can also substantially lower your tax bill? The Province of Ontario offers this tax-saving opportunity through its Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP). MFTIP sounds like a mouthful; the short version is this: more trees can = reduced taxes.
Stephanie Manning is a landowner who, for many years, has owned a 17-acre farm in Caledon. In 2014, Elizabeth Celanowicz, then a Reforestation Technician at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, approached Manning with a proposition. Manning could plant trees and naturalize marginal areas. The new forest would beautify her property – and lower her tax bill.
Manning said that despite living on the property “forever” and considering herself a “total nature lover,” she had never thought about planting trees. Celanowicz told her that funding from Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program and Peel Region would cover a large share of her costs. Manning was so impressed that she introduced Celanowicz to her neighbours to the north and south: each owned a 17-acre property.
“All three decided to plant trees the following spring and entered the MFTIP,” recalls Celanowicz, now Acting Director of Operations at Forests Ontario.
The MFTIP works as follows: any landowner who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, who has four hectares or more of forested land on a single property in Ontario, is eligible to enroll in the MFTIP.
To participate, a landowner must prepare, or have a plan approver prepare, a 10-year forest management plan that outlines how they will look after their forest. The landowner gets to set the priorities, choosing among such objectives as protecting and nurturing the environment, improving water quality, protecting rare species, enhancing activities for recreation, adding opportunities to hunt or fish, harvesting forest products (such as mushrooms or maple syrup) or cutting timber or firewood.
Prior to the planting, in 2015, each of the Caledon neighbours had some forested land, but not enough to qualify for the program. After the planting, all three farms were eligible for the MFTIP program.
In spring of 2015, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority planted over 18,000 trees on the three Caledon properties that included a variety of native trees and a component of wildlife shrubs. The 50 Million Tree Program, administered by Forests Ontario, provided financial support to cover the cost of the tree seedlings. After assessing the planting success, Celanowicz and her team wrote forest management plans for all the neighbours. “They had significant tax savings,” she said.
Celanowicz’ planting plans connected the three newly planted forests to other nearby wooded areas. Forest connectivity is a key component of a healthy landscape, as larger, connected forests provide more habitat for birds and mammals, enabling them to cover ground more easily.
“My trees are phenomenal,” says Manning. “The joy and the pleasure that the trees have brought – you can’t put a price on that. You become a steward of them.” — Peter Kuitenbrouwer