Six Steps to a Happy Conservation Easement

Going through the donation of a conservation easement on your land can be an arduous process. The intent here is to give you an overview of the process from start to finish so you’ll know what to expect.

1. Purpose – There must be conservation related purpose to the conservation easement, like preserving a wildlife habitat, preserving open space, or public recreation.

2. Options – As the donor of a conservation easement you have control of how the land is used, such as retaining some development rights, continuing to live in your house and farm the land, and prevent or allow public access.

3. Tax Benefits – Done properly, you are entitled to a federal tax deduction for the value of the conservation easement against 50% of your income for up to sixteen years. This tax break is good only for conservation easements conveyed by the end of 2011.

4. Qualified Organization – The recipient of your conservation easement donation must be qualified in the eyes of the IRS. Typically your local land trust or conservation commission.

5. Qualified Appraisal and Qualified Appraiser – To claim your tax deduction, you’ll need what the IRS calls a qualified appraisal done by a qualified appraiser.

6. Appraisal Process – The appraisal of the conservation easement requires some work on your part and a lot of work by your appraiser.

Each of these topics will be explored in detail in subsequent postings.