The Enhanced Tax Incentive for Conservation Easement Donations Has Been Made Permanent
In a great victory for landowners interested in conservation the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations has been made permanent. In strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the incentive, and, the president signed it into law on December 18, 2015, and it applies retroactively to January 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired December 31, 2014. The incentive, considered by many to be the most important conservation legislation in 20 years, encourages landowners to place conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources.
The Land Trust Alliance led its more than 1,100 member land trusts and five million supporters through a collaborative, multi-year campaign to secure the incentive’s permanency. First enacted in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than two million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. Lands placed into conservation easements continue to be farmed, grazed, hunted or used for outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation, and these lands remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.
Saying Thank You
Making the tax incentive permanent would not have been possible without the hard work of so many individuals in the land trust community — we thank you! And we hope that you will pass along your thanks to your members of Congress for their support of a permanent incentive. Your representatives or senators may not have voted for the bill in December, but they may have supported the incentive itself and had other reasons to vote against the final bill.
We encourage you to take a moment to:
- Call your representatives and senators (any Capitol Hill office can be reached at 202-224-3121)
- Send a thank you note
- Submit a letter-to-the-editor (see template)
- Include a blurb in your newsletter or e-newsletter
- And be sure to invite them to tour a conserved property in the spring
For more tips on thanking your elected officials, email us at email@example.com and we'll be happy to help.
Frequently Asked Questions about Using the Conservation Tax Incentive
If you own land with important natural or historic resources, donating a voluntary conservation easement (also called conservation agreement) can be one of the smartest ways to conserve the land you love, while maintaining your private property rights and possibly realizing significant federal tax benefits.
This summarizes the conservation easement tax incentive and provides answers to some frequently asked questions. The incentive:
- Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of his or her income in any year to 50 percent;
- Allows qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income; and
- Extends the carry-forward period for a donor to take tax deductions for a voluntary conservation agreement from 5 to 15 years.
These changes apply to donations made at any time in 2015 and to all donations made after that. This is a powerful tool for allowing modest-income donors to receive greater credit for donating a very valuable conservation easement on property they own. For land trusts, this translates to the possibility of protecting much more land through the use of conservation easements. Learn more about using the conservation tax incentive.
Two additional resources: View the exact language that Congress passed and learn how it has changed existing statutory law and read a memo from the Internal Revenue Service offering guidance regarding deductions by individuals for qualified conservation contributions.
There are so many people to thank who were involved in making the tax incentive permanent that one grand thank you from the Alliance goes out to all of you. We could not have done it without you.
The Alliance has been leading a team effort to achieve this since 2000, when we convened land trust leaders from across the country to build a consensus on what tax policies would best address the need to expand our conservation work.
This legislation would not have happened without the leadership of Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Dean Heller (NV) and Representatives Mike Kelly (PA) and Mike Thompson (CA) and many of their colleagues. Land trusts in their states worked hard to show these leaders that the conservation work of land trusts is important to their communities and broadly supported by their constituents. That work provided the foundation for this permanent conservation tool.