Congress passed the budget deal, and President Obama signed it; it’s official: these charitable tax breaks are permanent.

December 18, 2015

In a strong bipartisan action, the Senate voted 65-33 on December 18th to pass the bill that will make the tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent. This follows yesterday’s 318-109 vote in the House. This legislation has been a priority for the Land Trust Alliance for a decade, and it represents a huge win for conservation, for landowners and for the land trust community. Once signed into law the incentive will be applied retroactively to start Jan. 1, 2015.

Today’s vote also reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and increased its funding from $306 million last year to $450 million this year.

The enhanced incentives have helped farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners increase the pace of land conservation. With the enhancements, land and easement donations can wipe out up to 50% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (100% for farmers) and any unused portion can be carried forward and applied against AGI for up to 15 years. (Current law allows for a 30% of AGI deduction limit and a five-year carryforward.) The proposed deal includes a new provision that would permit Alaska Native Corporations to deduct donations of conservation easements up to 100% of taxable income.

The Land Trust Alliance has been seeking permanency for this incentive for a decade, and it will have a major impact on future conservation, Shay says. There may not be time to ink conservation deals by year-end but permanency would mean that land trusts can reach out to potential conservationists to start the donation conversation, knowing the tax breaks are in place—a huge benefit. 

Thank you to all who reached out to legislators to educate them about both the importance of this incentive and the critical role that land trusts play in communities across the country. And thank you to all those on Capitol Hill who are champions of conservation and this legislation.