NEWS FLASH! SUCCESS!
On Friday, 18 December 2015, with STRONG BIPARTISAN BACKING, the U.S. Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bill that will make the tax incentive for conservation easement donations PERMANENT. The vote came on the heels of a House vote on 17 December, which passed by a 318 to 109 vote. These decisions represent a major victory for conservation, for landowners, and for organizations such as The PCCA and the ranchers and farmers that we serve. . . and what this means is that working farmers and ranchers, as well as landowners with modest incomes, will be able to realize more of the value of their charitable donation.
So How is the Enhanced Easement Incentive Valuable to the Easement Dedication Process?
Conservation easements are a voluntary, private-sector approach to conservation. Landowners and community-supported nonprofits take the lead, rather than the government. Moreover, land conservation benefits our local populace. The enhanced incentive (that is, the financial assistance to bring an easement to fruition) helps family farmers, ranchers, and landowners of modest means protect their land. The program is based on the the concept that tax incentives are a cost-effective way to protect land. Through donated easements, every dollar of tax incentives leverages $2.80 worth of conservation. This incentive makes the tax system more fair. The enhanced incentive allows working farmers and ranchers, as well as landowners with modest incomes, to realize more of the value of their charitable donation.
How Does the Enhanced Easement Incentive Work?
The enhanced incentive helps landowners of modest means establish an easement by:
1. Raising the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50%;
2. Allowing qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their AGI; and
3. Increasing the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.
What Has the Enhanced Easement Incentive Helped To Accomplish?
The conservation tax incentive has been a success in increasing the pace, quality and permanence of land conservation. Since the enhanced incentive first passed in 2006, roughly one million acres have been conserved per year with easements managed by the nation’s 1,700 community-based land trusts. Here’s a summary of the program and its benefits:
1. Through an enhanced tax deduction, modest-income landowners can voluntarily place their most prized assets – historical sites, forests, family farms and ranches – in easements to ensure a legacy of natural abundance, enjoyment and agricultural production for future generations.
2. Land placed in easements can be farmed, grazed, hunted or used for recreation and the conservation of natural resources. It can also be passed on to heirs or sold.
3. Making the enhanced incentive permanent is about ensuring a legacy. Land tells the story of our nation, providing both a window to the past and a key to a healthy and secure future.
4. Talk about politics and strange bedfellows – and a pretty good argument for the incentive – more than 60 national organizations – ranging from National Rifle Association and American Farm Bureau Federation to Ducks Unlimited to the Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society – support the enhanced incentive for conservation easement.