The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
Program frequently refers to a “certified historic structure”,
a “certified rehabilitation”, and “historic character”?
What do these terms mean?
It is important to understand how these terms are defined
before applying for the 20% tax credit.
Federal historic preservation tax incentives are available for
any qualified project that the Secretary of the Interior designates
as a certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure.
A certified historic structure
is defined as a building that is listed in the National Register
of Historic Places, either individually or as a contributing building
in a National Register historic district, or as a contributing building
within a local historic district that has been certified by the
Department of the Interior. Buildings in historic districts must
be “certified” or approved by NPS as contributing to
the district as part of the Historic Preservation Certification Application.
Only certified historic structures qualify for the credits. The
“structure” must be a building—not a bridge, ship,
or a railroad car, for example.
The National Park Service must approve, or “certify”
all rehabilitation projects seeking the 20% tax credit. A certified
rehabilitation is a rehabilitation of a certified
historic structure that is approved by the NPS as being consistent
with the historic character of the property and, where applicable,
the district in which it is located.
Historic buildings are physical records of past inhabitants. People
make changes to buildings over time to fit new uses and needs. The
historic character results from the combination of the character-defining
features that have established the appearance of the building as
it has evolved over time.
Character-defining aspects of the building that need to be identified
and evaluated may include form and detailing of exterior materials,
such as masonry, wood, and metal; exterior features such as roofs,
porches, and windows; materials, such as plaster and wood; finished and unfinished interior spaces; and interior features, such as moldings and stairways, room configuration, and spatial relationships, as well as structural systems.
This historic transportation building in San Francisco,
California, has been rehabilitated for commercial use.
Photo: NPS files