Urban Policy in Disguise: A History of the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

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Journal of Planning History


In 1976, the federal government adopted tax incentives to engage the private sector in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings. This article examines the development and evolution of federal tax policy related to historic preservation, focusing on four major pieces of legislation: the Tax Reform Act of 1976, the Revenue Act of 1978, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986. From the outset, the motivations behind federal tax incentives for preservation were as much about urban revitalization, as they were about preserving historic resources. Furthermore, the history of federal preservation tax incentives, which often benefited from bipartisan support, sheds light on current debates about amending, enhancing, or eliminating the current historic rehabilitation tax credit.



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