Below is an account of a resident's experience with the WV Historic Tax Credit Program. Carmen Slater has offered to assist anyone who may wish to apply. Carmen can be reached at (240) 298-8359 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/tcres.html for additional information.
My Experience with the
West Virginia Historic Tax Credit
By: Carmen Slater
I first learned about the West Virginia Historic Income Tax credit from an acquaintance named Meg Spurlin. My husband and I stayed at Meg’s Airbnb, Leeland, in Shepherdstown on several occasions when we were shopping for a house. She told me she received the tax credit on a property she had previously owned and renovated. She further advised that with successfully receiving the tax credit you could deduct up to 20% of the conforming renovation costs from your state tax liability. We have since become great friends with Meg.
With that suggestion, I contacted the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History, where the applications are processed and reviewed. Their website recommends having someone from the Department visit the property to talk through renovation plans. I left a message for the person tasked with assisting prospective applicants, Jennifer Brannon. When she got back to me, we set up an appointment to visit the house and discuss the process. To make a long story short, after many months and countless attempts to get help from the Department, I was never able to get anyone to come to our house. Frustrated, I decided not to pursue the tax credit. I did send in Part One of the application, but I did not feel confident enough in my renovation plans to fill out Part Two. I found it a confusing and daunting task. I already felt overwhelmed with renovations which were well underway. I was terribly busy with the contractors and making decisions about the work.
Meg stopped by often to witness the progress on our house. Her son Scott was especially interested in the renovation construction work. I mentioned to Meg that I decided not to apply for the tax credit. She encouraged me to go for it. She emphasized that all the work was being done historically correct. She advised that she filled out her application by herself and it got approved. I replied: “but aren’t you supposed to apply before work begins?”. She responded that her house was half-finished when she made the application.
With Meg’s inspiration, I decided to forge ahead and attempt to fill out Part Two of the application on my own. I read the lengthy directions, and the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, which is a uniform set of established federal standards detailing the appropriate treatment for historic structures. After I filled out the first few items on the list of projects on Part Two of the application, I met with Meg to ask her opinion on my effort. She said, “they are going to love you!”. That gave me encouragement to press on.
I completed nine pages of detailed information along with nearly 100 “before” pictures, the “as-built” drawings, and the interior designer’s plan for interior alterations. I mailed it off, return-receipt requested of course. I kept copies of everything including the photographs.
Several weeks later I got a call from Jennifer Brennon of the Department. She had questions about the way we waterproofed the exterior below-grade foundation walls. She did not want tar on the walls. This work had at this point already been completed. She was also concerned about the use of historic bricks from another building in the rebuild of the chimneys. As a result, I had
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our masonry contractor Chris Anderson from Monocracy Chimney Company contact her to explain what he had done and thankfully, he was able to persuade her to approve the work.
A few weeks later I received a letter from the Department approving all proposed work except for our desire to expose the ceiling beams in the guest bedroom. The letter explained that, although the beams were originally uncovered, houses change and evolve over time and we should not undo what had been done to improve the home. It was important to me that these beams remain revealed. The bedroom ceiling is exceptionally low so exposing the beams would expand and create a more spacious feel to the room. My husband Austin and our general contractor, Chris Schwartz of Walnut Ridge Construction, composed a letter to the Department appealing the decision; the letter provided a point-by-point argument and information proving that the beams had been exposed until very recently in the 20th century, noting importantly that there were ceramic electric insulators nailed to the ceiling beams. This type of insulator was always exposed in the interior rooms, so no plaster or other covering was ever over them at the time electricity was installed and for some period of years thereafter.
We did not hear back from the Department for several weeks, so I emailed Jennifer Brannon asking her about the appeal. She promptly replied asking me to provide pictures of the ceramic insulators on the ceiling beams. Unfortunately, the workers had removed the insulators during clean-up and refinishing. However, we were able to locate them and restore them to their original location. I took pictures and emailed them to Jennifer. She replied accepting our appeal to leave the beams exposed.
Fast forward a year, I determined I was 95% finished with the renovations, so I started working on Part Three of the application. This part largely involves providing “after” pictures of each area to correspond with the “before” pictures previously submitted. All expenditures were summarized and categorized as either allowable or excluded. I sent off the completed Part Three to the Department with great hopes.
About six weeks later we had not heard a word, so my husband sent an email to our state Senator Rucker requesting her intervention. The very following day I got an email from Emily Vance at the Department who resurrected the issue regarding the exposed beams in the guest bedroom. Jennifer Brannon was no longer with the Department and Emily did not have any record of the approval of leaving the beams revealed. I forwarded her the correspondence between Jennifer and I regarding the approval. Emily immediately replied approving Part Three of the application and stated she would send a hard copy for tax purposes.
So now all sections are completed and approved!
We recently learned from our tax preparer that the tax credit is saving us over $10,000 on our 2020 West Virginia state income tax filing and will continue to save as much each year for a total of five years. I am pleased that I went through with this process. And a big thank you to Meg Spurlin for her encouragement.