The environment and taxpayers need IRS guidance on conservation easements

The Hill
By Jared Whitley
March 6, 2020

The Internal Revenue Service recently took important steps on a number of issues, including carbon capture tax credits, opportunity zones and even cryptocurrency. In so doing, the agency, more than a year since Charles Rettig became commissioner, has demonstrated that it can be effective even with tight budgets and heavy workloads.

But on one matter, traces of the old regime still loom large: the IRS’s protracted and costly battle against conservation easements, a tax incentive for private land conservation. This battle continues to drag on, and without clear guidance from the IRS on what compliant land donations should look like.

This lack of guidance preceded Commissioner Rettig’s tenure, but he should seize the opportunity to correct the course.

Conservation easements, a tool aimed at incentivizing private land conservation, provide a tax break for landowners when they donate land with certain environmental or historical features to a qualified trust. If property owners forego developing the land in perpetuity, they can deduct the value of the land’s property rights from their adjusted gross income just like a charitable donation.


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