Donors of conservation easements can take advantage of this new tax incentive right away
Every spring, men and women across America experience an overwhelming sense of nervous anticipation. It motivates them to throw open drawers, haul boxes down from the attic, and gather all the essentials ahead of the big day. No, we’re not talking about the spring turkey opener or the Mid-Atlantic shad run—we’re talking about tax season.
Ok, sure, filing your taxes isn’t nearly as fun or exciting as springtime in the outdoors, but there’s positive news for landowners, fish, and wildlife this tax season. We’re not tax experts*, but with less than two weeks before April 15, this may be one incentive you need to know about.
In December 2015, Congress made permanent a federal tax incentive for the donation of conservation easements to encourage landowners to conserve important natural resources while retaining ownership of their property. The law now adds the following benefits for donors:
- The incentive raises the annual deduction a donor can receive for donating a conservation easement from 30 to 50 percent of his or her income.
- Qualifying farmers and ranchers can deduct up to 100 percent of their income each year.
- Donors can carry forward the tax deductions for a donated easement for 15 years, up from just five years.
(Our partners at the Land Trust Alliance put together a handy brochure that explains the changes in more detail—here’s where you can view it online.)
If you donated an easement last year, the incentive is retroactive to January 1, 2015, meaning you can take advantage of this new deduction right away. And if you own property and want to protect your lands and waters, you should consider donating a conservation easement in 2016. Conservation easements can be very flexible; they are tailor-made to the needs of each landowner and each piece of land, allowing you to continue to hunt and fish, farm, ranch, and harvest timber, as long as you preserve the land for natural habitat, open space, historical importance, or outdoor recreation or education.
And the added bonus for hunters and anglers? You can feel good knowing that your children and grandchildren will enjoy this land, and the fish or wildlife it supports, just as you did.
*TRCP doesn’t handle conservation easements, but many of our partners do. Organizations like Land Trust Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, and Ducks Unlimited can help you get started. And, of course, you should contact your tax attorney or accountant for further guidance.