A Critical Moment in Our Fight to Protect the Historic Tax Credit: Act Now

By Stephanie Meeks posted 10-26-2017 12:46


Update (12/20/2017): After more than five years of consistent advocacy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with our partners at the National Trust Community Investment Corporation and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, is pleased to report that the 20 percent historic tax credit (HTC) has survived the most significant rewrite of the tax code in more than 30 years. Congress has confirmed once again that incentivizing the rehabilitation of our historic buildings makes good economic sense.  Read More

As tax reform takes shape over the next few weeks, now is a critical moment in our fight to protect the federal HTC. Since 1981, the year President Ronald Reagan significantly expanded the program, the federal HTC has created millions of jobs; attracted more than $100 billion in private investment; and transformed tens of thousands of underused commercial buildings for new, productive uses—all while providing a return to the U.S. Treasury.

Unfortunately, despite these many clear benefits, the federal HTC’s future is currently in doubt: a key outline that is meant to guide tax reform’s legislative process through Congress does not include the credit. Without this critical financing incentive, so much opportunity to retain, restore, and reuse the old and historic buildings in our communities will be lost.

Take it from no less a source than Ronald Reagan himself. On September 18, 1984, three years after signing the credit expansion into law, President Reagan addressed the National Conference on Revitalization of America’s Towns in a taped message. He emphasized the many benefits the HTC offers our communities—the same reasons we need to save it now: 

I’d like to draw your attention to a major innovation that our administration put into effect less than three years ago: increased tax credits for the renovation of older buildings. With that one initiative, we helped to send your tax dollars back into your communities… 

Across America people are getting the message. Our tax credits have made the preservation of our older buildings not only a matter of respect for beauty and history, but of economic good sense.

President Reagan is absolutely correct about “economic good sense” because 33 years after this video was taped, we have the receipts. According to the Annual Report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit for 2016, recently released by Rutgers University and the National Park Service, between 1978 and 2016, the HTC has contributed to:

  • More than 42,000 buildings being restored;
  • More than $130 billion in private capital being reinvested in our communities;
  • Nearly 2.5 million jobs being created; and
  • An average of $1.20 being returned to the Treasury for every dollar invested.

 In short: The HTC is not just an engine of reuse and revitalization in our communities. It is a pro-growth investment that works.


That’s why it’s so important that we work to galvanize support for this critical tool in the current tax debate. Today Congress passed its FY18 budget, which paves the way for the Senate to pass tax reform legislation with a simple majority vote. After clearing this procedural hurdle, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, announced that Republicans will introduced tax reform legislation on November 1 with plans to mark up the legislation in Committee the following week.

We need your advocacy to help our communities retain their beauty, history, and economic good sense. Act now to urge your lawmaker to continue this important legacy and keep the tax credit in any reform of the tax code:

  1. Show your support for the HTC by sending this e-alert to your representatives in Congress. (Updated 11/2/2017)
  2. Call your representatives to emphasize how important the HTC is. Be sure to highlight specific HTC projects in your district or state, which can make all the difference. Resources to help make the case are available here.
  3. Share your support for the HTC on Twitter by tagging your members of Congress and using the hashtag #historictaxcredit.
  4. Attend our upcoming Policy webinar on November 2, 2017

If you have questions or need further information, please contact the members of the National Trust’s HTC team: Mike Phillips (mphillips@ntcic.com), Shaw Sprague (ssprague@savingplaces.org), and Renee Kuhlman (rkuhlman@savingplaces.org).

The HTC has been one of the most significant federal investments in reviving our communities’ historic places for nearly four decades. Getting rid of it would be the opposite of good economic sense—it would be penny wise and pound foolish. Please join us in making the case for the HTC today.

Stephanie K. Meeks is president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


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