P4C Strongly Supports The Following Legislative Proposals

Section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code

For almost 40 years, the conservation easement incentive of Section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code has helped preserve millions of acres of important land and ensured that our government alone does not shoulder the responsibility for land conservation.

In December of 2015, with the passage of the enhanced conservation easement incentive, Congress affirmed that Section 170(h) is a vital component of our tax code. Today, Section 170(h) is achieving its intended goal of encouraging private landowners to voluntarily choose permanent conservation over development, thereby saving important lands that provide our communities with green and open space, and protect their biodiversity.

Partnership for Conservation (P4C) believes there should be further protections implemented to identify and prevent abusive conservation easement donations. The IRS’s solution — IRS Notice 2017-10 — is inefficient and burdensome. To meet the enforcement needs stated by the IRS in the Notice, and ensure the public priority of encouraging voluntary, private land conservation is met, P4C has identified legislative proposals to further safeguard Section 170(h).

PROPOSAL 1:

Enhance the definition of “qualified appraisal” to produce more accurate and well-substantiated valuations.

For example:

  • The qualified appraisal must be independently verified by a second independent, qualified appraiser.
  • The stated highest and best use (HBU) of a donated property, as contained in the qualified appraisal, must be confirmed.

 

PROPOSAL 2:

Bolster the educational requirements to be a “qualified appraiser” in order to ensure appraisers have sufficient training and expertise.

For example:

  • Qualified appraisers must have taken and passed a comprehensive course on valuing conservation easement donations either from the Appraisal Institute or the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
PROPOSAL 3:

Produce greater visibility and transparency of conservation easement donations.

For example:

  • Those that accept donations must report to the IRS a description of each conservation easement donation they received and the fair market value of the donations.
  • Those that accept donations must provide information to the public describing the conservation easement donations they received and a description of the conservation values of the donations.

P4C calls on Congress, land trusts and others in the environmental community to work with us to ensure legitimate funding sources for conservation – be they individual, family or partnership owned – remain attractive options for permanently preserving valuable greenspace.


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