Internal Revenue Code Section 170(H) - National Perpetuity Standards For Federally Subsidized Conservation Easements
By: Nancy McLaughlin
This Article is the first of two companion articles that (i) analyze the requirements in Internal Revenue Code section 170(h) that a deductible conservation easement be “granted in perpetuity” and its conservation purpose be “protected in perpetuity” and (ii) compare those requirements to state law provisions addressing the transfer, modification, or termination of conservation easements. This first Article discusses the historical development of the federal charitable income tax deduction for conservation easement donations, the legislative history of section 170(h), and the Treasury Regulations interpreting that section. It explains that section 170(h) and the Treasury Regulations contain a complex web of requirements intended to ensure that a federal subsidy is provided only with respect to conservation easements that permanently protect unique or otherwise significant properties. Such requirements are also intended to ensure that, in the unlikely event changed conditions make continued use of the subject property for conservation or historic preservation purposes impossible or impractical and the easement is extinguished in a state court proceeding, the holder will receive proceeds and use those proceeds to replace the lost conservation or historic values on behalf of the public.
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