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Unveiling the Tax Benefits of Conservation Easements

A Guide for Landowners

Hey there, fellow land enthusiasts! Have you ever wondered how you can contribute to land conservation while also reaping some tax benefits? Well, let me introduce you to the world of conservation easements - a not-so-talked-about hero in the land conservation narrative.

What is a Conservation Easement?

Every piece of land has a story, and with a conservation easement, you get to write a chapter that lasts forever. Imagine you own a piece of land you love deeply. You want to protect its natural beauty, but you're not ready to give it up entirely. Enter conservation easements! These are legal agreements that limit the use of your land to preserve its conservation values. Think of it as a promise to keep your land green and thriving for years to come.

The Magic of Easements: 3 Easy Steps

  1. Create Your Legacy: It all starts when you, the landowner, voluntarily agree to a conservation easement. You're essentially making a commitment to limit the type of development on your property, which is often done in partnership with a government agency or a conservation organization.

  2. Determine the Value: How much is your conservation easement worth? Well, it's based on the difference in your land's value before and after the easement. Professional appraisals step in here to figure out these numbers.

  3. Play by the Rules: Remember, with great benefits come great responsibilities. Staying in compliance with easement requirements and tax laws is crucial to keep these perks.

Tax Perks

Once your easement is in place and valued, the tax credit journey begins. These benefits can vary, but they're always worth exploring. Each state and the federal tax laws have their unique twists.

Federal Benefits: Yep- the IRS is in on it! They allow deductions for conservation easements as a form of charitable donation. Yes, your good deed doesn't go unnoticed.

State-Level Sweeteners: Some states sprinkle extra benefits on top. These state tax credits can sometimes be sold or transferred, turning into a financial cherry on top for you!

The Long Game: Beyond the immediate tax credit, this move can lower your property taxes and preserve your land's beauty for future generations. That's a win-win in my book!

The Fine Print

Who You Work With Matters

The organization you grant the easement to must be qualified. Think government entities or recognized conservation organizations. You will need professional help to get baseline reports and appraisals. These are vital to set the stage for your property's current condition and ensure future compliance.

Deduction Limits

The IRS does set limits on how much you can deduct, but sometimes there's wiggle room, and you can carry forward unused portions of the deduction. Make sure you are planning to work with a tax professional to get the most tax value out of your easement.

Why Are You Doing This?

The purpose of your easement should align with recognized conservation goals, like protecting habitats or maintaining open spaces. Basically, come up with a mission statement for your easement that’s a bit more convincing than “I like green (nature AND money)!”

Keep Records

I think we say this like, every time, which should let you know how important record keeping is. When it comes to substantiating your donation, documentation is your best friend.

Forever and Ever …and ever …and ever …and ever…

These easements are for keeps; they're perpetual. Permanent. A gift to Mother Nature. No takesies-backsies. A commitment. Eternal. Everlasting. An unbreakable vow to your community. Point being, be absolutely certain this is what you want to do before finalizing your plans.

Conservation easements are a fantastic way to marry your love for land conservation with some smart tax planning. They're a testament to your commitment to preserving nature and can be a savvy financial move. Just remember to navigate the legal and tax requirements carefully – and when in doubt, seek professional advice!

Want to learn more? Our deep-dive in this month’s newsletter (November 2023) will cover this exact topic! Sign up today to get the details in your inbox.

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