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IRS Hangs Tough On Conservation Easements

The IRS Chief Counsel has signaled with CCA 202130014 that the Service will be continuing its hard line on conservation easements. The engine of every abusive syndicated conservation easement is a vastly inflated appraisal. Rather than focus on the appraisal issue, IRS has instead gone after technical flaws in the easement documents. What is disturbing about that approach is that it might be applicable to legitimate easement transactions.

About Easement Deductions

There is a general rule that partial interests in property are not deductible as charitable contributions. Qualified easements are an exception to that rule. Since there is not a lot of buying and selling of easements, they are usually valued on a before and after basis. The before value is where all the shenanigans are, but that is not what the CCA is about. The CCA is about "perpetuity".

Forever Is A Long Long Time

One of the requirements of a qualified easement is that it be perpetual, which is a really long time and as a practical matter nothing on earth can be truly perpetual. In order to make things as perpetual as possible, the regulations provide that in the event of a judicial termination of the easement, say from a taking by eminent domain, the proceeds have to be split in accordance with the percentage of value established at the time of the easement. And the qualified organization that hold the easement has to use its share for conservation purposes.

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