Tax Credits for Historic Homes
Frederick Wilhelm and Frances Amelia Winkenwerder House, 1870
Watertown, Wisconsin. This property is an example of a historic home that qualifies for tax credits. View the property record: AHI 7217
Owners of historic residences in Wisconsin may be eligible for income tax credits that can help pay for their home's rehabilitation. The Homeowners' Tax Credit program returns 25 percent of the cost of approved rehabilitation (of eligible historic homes) as a Wisconsin income tax credit. The Wisconsin Historical Society's Division of Historic Preservation and Public History administers this program.
How the Program Works
In a nutshell: Wisconsin homeowners apply for the program by submitting a tax credit application. If your project is approved and completed, the tax credits are applied and your project is closed.
Make Sure Your Home is a Historic Home
To qualify for the program, your personal residence must be one of the following before beginning any work:
- Listed in the National Register or State Register of Historic Places
- Contributing to a National Register or State Register historic district
- Be determined through the Homeowner's Preservation Tax Credit program application process to be eligible for an individual listing in the State Register of Historic Places
For staff to make this determination (called a "preliminary certification"), you need to send in Part 1 of the tax credit application, photographs, and information to indicate that your property meets listing criteria of the National Register or State Register of Historic Places, which are noted in the tax credit application package.
To find out if your home is already listed in the National Register or State Register of Historic Places, conduct a property record search by entering your address and clicking "GO". Look for your address in the search results list, or choose the "National or State Registers Record" filter on the left-hand side of the search results.
Mail the Tax Credit Application Before You Do Any Work
Fill out and mail in (or hand deliver) the tax credit application (Parts 1 and 2) with "before" photos of your property and a list of the work you would like to carry out.
Wisconsin statutes define five categories of work eligible for the tax credit:
- Exterior of your house, such as roof replacement and painting, but not site work such as driveways and landscaping
- Interior of a window sash (if work is done to the exterior of the window sash)
- Structural elements of a historic property, such as reinforcing structural beams
- Heating and ventilating systems, such as furnaces, air conditioning and water heaters
- Electrical wiring or plumbing systems, but not electrical or plumbing fixtures
You must determine how much you will spend within a two-year period:
- A homeowner must spend at least $10,000 on eligible work within a two-year period and submit the tax credit application before beginning any work.
- If you think you will not meet the $10,000 minimum investment requirement within the two-year period, you may request a five-year phased plan. (You must decide this before you fill out the tax credit application.)
- The tax credit is maximized once the eligible expenses reach $40,000 per application.
The Society Reviews the Application
Society staff will review Part 1 of your application to certify that your property is historic.
Next, the Society staff will review Part 2 of your application to make sure the work you are proposing will not have a harmful effect on the house's materials and historic features.
Projects are usually approved in 3 weeks or less. You will receive notification by mail. (We may be able to expedite the review under some circumstances. Please let us know if you have need of urgent approval.)
Once Your Project is Approved, Carry Out the Work on Your Home
Once Part 1 and 2 are approved, you can carry out the work and take the tax credit year-by-year, based on 25 percent of your costs of eligible work.
Notify the Society When Your Project Is Completed
When you have completed work on your entire project, you will send in a "Request for Certification of Completed Work" form. Along with the form, you'll send in a total of your project's cost and "after" photos that clearly show the work you have carried out.
When your request is approved, the Society will mail you a letter stating that your project is closed and complete.
Tax Credits vs. Deductions vs. Property Tax Relief:
A tax credit differs from a deduction in the following way:
- When you figure your income taxes, a tax deduction reduces your income for purposes of determining how much you owe the government in taxes.
- A tax credit, on the other hand, is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what you actually owe in taxes.
- In this program, for example, if you were to spend $20,000 on eligible work, you would receive a $5,000 credit against what you owe in state income taxes.
- If you cannot use the full credit in a given year, you can carry the unused credit into the following years until you use it up.
- This program does not affect what you owe in property taxes.
Because this is both a historic preservation program and a tax credit program, other rules and guidelines exist. Before you apply, we urge you to read all application materials thoroughly.
Homeowner Tax Credit Instructions (PDF, 142 KB)
Homeowner Tax Credit Application (PDF, 99 KB)
Tax Credit Contractor Standards (PDF, 240 KB)
Tax Credits for Historic Building Rehabilitation
Find more information about tax credits.
For specific advice about the tax credit program or for advice on other technical historic architecture issues, please refer to the map and contact information below.
Tax Credit Map
If you are in the Western District, contact Jen Davel by phone at 608-264-6490 or by email below:
If you are in the Eastern District, contact Mark Buechel by phone at 608-264-6491 or by email below: