Tax Credit Tips for Farm Businesses

November 19, 2023

Most agricultural business owners focus heavily on reducing farm business expenses as a means to produce more profit. But if you’re a farmer or rancher and you want to be in the black, have you considered shifting some of that focus to how you file your federal taxes?

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax laws constantly change, and today’s tax codes may look starkly different from next calendar year’s. This abridged tax guide will help you understand US tax benefits and a few ways to maximize your tax credits this tax year.

While FarmRaise is dedicated to your small business’s financial health, consult a certified public accountant or another trusted tax professional when seeking financial or legal advice and for any tax purposes. The intention of this post is to offer you tips that could lead to farm prosperity but is not a substitute for professional advice.

What Are Farm Tax Credits?

As taxpayers, farmers and ranchers can benefit from both tax credits and tax deductions - but there’s a difference between the two.

A tax credit is applied to the total amount of tax that you owe or to your projected refund. This is different from a tax deduction, which is applied before your tax burden is calculated as a way to reduce your gross income. Said simply: a tax deduction can reduce your taxable farm income, whereas a tax credit can reduce your tax burden or increase your tax refund.

5 Ways to Get Farm Tax Credits

Fuel Tax Credit

Farms and ranches are one of the few types of small businesses that can claim a Fuel Tax Credit. This credit is intended to reimburse qualifying small businesses for the sales tax they paid when purchasing fuel.

While this can be beneficial to your business, do take care to set yourself up for success. This tax credit is among the top twelve most abused tax credits, and the IRS closely monitors for misuse and penalizes false claims with fines or jail time. If you do incur high fuel costs during your farming or ranching seasons, talk to your accountant about how to set this tax credit up the right way.

A fuel tax credit is commonly confused with a fuel tax exemption. While they both are available for qualified producers, they have distinct differences. You can take a look at fuel tax exemption law but we’ve also summarized the legalese for you:

A fuel tax credit is a reduction in your taxes owed - meaning it will directly impact your tax return. A fuel tax exemption, however, is an exemption from paying the tax in the first place. We’ll go into detail about tax exemptions in a upcoming post.

State Tax Credits

Your state may offer special tax credits for certain farming operations or behaviors. A common state tax credit is a “beginning farmer” credit. These credits are used by states like Minnesota and Iowa to incentivize the transfer of farm property or farm assets to new or beginning farmers.

For example, the Minnesota Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program is applicable to those “who rent or sell farmland, equipment, livestock, and other agricultural assets to beginning farmers.” This program also allows beginning farmers to get up to $1,500 in tax credits for qualifying farm business management program tuition. Landowners can get up to $50,000 in tax credits for selling their land to beginning farmers. The credit can also be applied to income from cash rentals and crop-share rentals.

Other states, like Virginia, offer tax credits for the purchase of equipment or investment in best management practices. Virginia’s list of farming-focused tax credits includes:

  • Agricultural Best Management Practices credit - for farmers and ranchers with a soil or conservation plan in place who spend money on eligible conservation best management practices
  • Conservation Tillage and Precision Agriculture Equipment credit - for farmers and ranchers with a soil, conservation and/or nutrient management plan in place who purchase equipment for no-till and/or precision nutrient management implementation
  • Farm Wineries and Vineyards credit - for starting or improving a winery or vineyard
  • Food Crop Donation credit - for donating crops to a nonprofit food bank in the state
  • Riparian Waterway Buffer credit - for those who have a stewardship management plan and plant riparian buffers along waterways on your property

Contact your state department of agriculture to learn more about local tax credits that you can take advantage of as a farm or ranch business and/or landowner.

Renewable Energy Credits

Renewable energy incentives include tax credits that are intended to reduce the overall cost of adopting solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

One popular renewable energy tax credit is offered by the federal government. It’s called the Federal Investment Tax Credit and it can be used against 30 percent of your investment in residential solar PV system installation for systems installed between 2023 and 2032. The credit will also cover 26 percent of investment costs if you installed a system in 2020 or 2021.

Your state may also have tax credits available for installing solar, wind turbines and biomass generation facilities. It’s worth contacting your state department of agriculture or department of energy to inquire about renewable energy incentives.

Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credits

The IRS offers a Research and Development (R&D) tax credit that offsets expenses associated with innovation. Your farm or ranch may qualify for the R&D tax credit if you participate in any of the following activities:

  • Soil health practice adoption, including planting cover crops
  • Using new or innovative inputs
  • Developing new feeding techniques or formulas for your livestock
  • Iterating on new harvest techniques and tools

You might consider leveraging a grant or cost-share program to help defray the initial cost of implementing the R&D activity. For example, if you were going to plant cover crops for the first time, you could apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to get cost-share for the cover crop seed and planting costs. Or, you might want to check out the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farmer-Rancher grant program to conduct an on-farm research project.

Earned Income Tax Credit for Farmers with Low Income

Depending on your income, you may qualify for the federal earned income tax credit. You can see whether you qualify using this assistant tool developed by the IRS.

Other Tax Credit Tips

Conservation Expense Deductions

Investing in on-farm conservation can provide a pathway towards reducing your total taxable income. That’s because conservation expenses are a deductible expense that can reduce your overall taxable income.

If you’re considering implementing a conservation project on the farm, you could pursue government funding to defray the upfront cost and then conservation expense tax deductions to reduce your tax burden at the end of the year.

Consider applying for USDA programs like EQIP to pursue projects like cover cropping, terracing, windbreaks and shelterbelts, or other practices that prevent erosion, protect water quality and improve biodiversity. These programs don’t directly provide tax credits but the expenses incurred may be eligible for deductions or depreciation on the tax return.

Track All of Your Expenditures

Now let's talk about the not-so-glamorous yet crucial world of tracking your farm expenditures. We get it, the idea of meticulously recording every transaction might not sound like the most exciting task on your farming to-do list. But the truth is, it's the secret sauce to financial sanity and a smoother tax season.

Enter FarmRaise Tracks – your trusty sidekick in this financial adventure.

Imagine sitting down at your desk with mountains of receipts and invoices, sorting through stack of crumpled papers so you can properly file your taxes. You’re bound to miss a few key numbers aren’t you?

That’s why isn’t important to track your expenses throughout the year. You’ll want to consider a tool that not only helps you keep your farm transactions in order but also lets you snap photos of your receipts and neatly categorize every expense. This isn't just about avoiding a tax season headache; it's about turning your financial data into a powerful asset for your farm.

When those tax credits and deductions come knocking, you'll be ready, armed with a well-organized arsenal of financial records that not only impresses your accountant but also puts more money back in your pocket.

And here's the thing – the magic isn't just in the year-end reports. By staying on top of your expenses throughout the year, you're not only lightening the load for your future self but also ensuring that you don't miss out on any golden opportunities for tax credits that could significantly boost your bottom line.

It's like tending to your financial garden regularly – a bit of effort upfront, and you'll be reaping the rewards when it truly counts. So, we encourage all farmers to check out FarmRaise Tracks. It’s like your financial green thumb, making the process as smooth as a well-tilled field and as rewarding as a bountiful harvest.

Understand Taxable Income and Deductions

In addition to tax credits, you can reduce your overall tax burden for the current year by deducting eligible expenses from your taxable farm income. Deductible farm expenses include:

  • Interest paid on farm loans
  • Rent or lease payments
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Real estate and personal property taxes
  • Seeds and plants
  • Fertilizer and lime
  • Conservation expenses
  • And more!

More Tax Resources

Looking for more tax tips? Learn about tax forms, tax filing and tax preparation for growers from our Tax Time series for agricultural producers:


Taxes often feel like a massive project to take on. But if you’re planning ahead, you can implement practices that can earn you tax breaks the next time you file taxes. Whatever you do, be careful to record your farming activities, expenditures and income properly.

See how a FarmRaise Premium Plan can help you keep track of your farm finances and help you apply for the funding we mentioned in this post.


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