In order to provide tax benefits to conservation donors, the Trust must follow strict state and federal guidelines to organize and operate as a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable corporation.
Also, the conservation donation itself must comply with the requirements of the federal tax code and state of Georgia guidelines. Most importantly, the donation must protect land “for public benefit”.
Tax benefits in general are allowed for the value of the donated property or of a conservation easement, provided the donation is granted in perpetuity and to a qualified conservancy organization such as Southern Conservation Trust. IRS and state regulations allow the tax benefits to be spread over a number of years.
Under federal estate tax guidelines, donation of a qualified conservation easement may also reduce the inheritance tax obligation of a property owner’s estate. A reduction in the market value of your property may also affect estate taxes.
Georgia supports a Conservation Tax Credit Program, which provides for an income tax credit for conservation. To qualify for the tax credit, the donation or easement must be certified by the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources. Southern Conservation Trust helps landowners through this process.
The value of an easement is the difference between the market value of your land now and the market value of your land once it is no longer eligible for development.
For example, if your property is worth one million dollars as potential developed land, but worth only $600,000 when protected by an easement, you have created a $400,000 charitable donation to the land trust holding your easement. Income tax deductions are allowed for that donation, provided the donation is granted in perpetuity and to a qualified organization such as Southern Conservation Trust.
How Much Will My Tax Benefit Be?
The answer to this question for your conservation donation will depend on the details of your financial situation and on the value of land in your immediate location. It can only be answered by qualified professionals working closely and confidentially with you to appraise your property and plan your easement.
In general the IRS provides that a landowner may deduct up to 30% of Adjusted Gross Income in any year, with a carry-over period of five additional years.
Georgia allows a landowner a tax credit in any one year of up to $250,000 for individual taxpayers and $500,000 for corporations, but no more than $500,000 or 25% of the value of each conservation donation, whichever is less. The carry-over period is five years.
The Conservation Resources page includes links to websites and documents with more information about tax benefits for conservation.