Tax Credits for Historic Homes in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Tax Credits for Historic Homes

Tax Credits for Historic Homes in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
nlargeExterior of yellow brick Federal style colonial house with brick parapets and chimneys rising above the roof line.

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 State Historic Preservation Office administers this program.

How the Program Works

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.

  1. 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.

  2. Mail the Tax Credit Application Before You Do Any Work

    Fill out and mail in the tax credit application (Parts 1 and 2) with current photos of your property and a list of the proposed work on your house.

    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 betwen $10,000 and $40,000 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. If you have more than $40,000 in eligible work, you must submit multiple applications for review.
  3. 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 generally reviewed within 30 days of receipt of a completed package. However, during construction season, we receive many homeowner applications which can result in longer wait times. An incomplete application may also delay your review if the reviewer has to request more information. We advise you to send your application as soon as you have all of your project information and up to two months before work will begin to ensure that our reviewers can consult with you on your project. You will receive notification by mail when your Part 2 application is approved. We may be able to expedite  review under some circumstances. Please let us know if you need urgent approval for emergency repairs to your home.

  4. 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.

  5. 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" Part 3 form. Along with the form, you'll send in a total of your project's cost and 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.

Application Materials

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. If you prefer video instruction, please try our new 12-minute video on how to apply for the homeowner tax credit.

Learn More

Find more information about tax credits.

Have Questions?

EnlargeA map of Wisconsin counties, colored according to whether they are in the Eastern or Western Tax Credit regions.

For specific advice about the tax credit program or for advice on other technical historic architecture issues, please refer to the contact information below.

For projects in the eastern part of the state, please contact Paul Porter at 608-264-6491 or

For projects in the western part of the state, please contact Andrea Herries at 608-264-6490 or