Finally, after months of waiting, Congress extended the enhanced income tax deductions for conservation easement donations made through the end of 2011. The rules are the same rules that have been in effect for the past few years. That is, a landowner who donates a conservation easement before the end of this year can take the deduction for the donation up to 50% of adjusted gross income, with a 15-year carry forward of any unused amount. Many landowners who are actively in the farming, ranching, or forestry business can take the deduction up to 100% of adjusted gross income, with a 15-year carry forward.
These rules are all discussed in great detail in Preserving Family Lands: Book I.
It is possible that Congress will extend the incentives after 2011, and it is also possible Congress will make the incentives permanent. The Land Trust Alliance, at www.landtrustalliance.org, has led the fight for the incentives over the years and is now working hard to make the incentives permanent. But is also possible, of course, that the enhanced incentives will expire at the end of this year, in which case we will revert to the deduction rules that were in place under prior law. See Preserving Family Lands: Book I for a longer discussion of these rules.
As I have said to many landowners many times, if you want to be certain to take advantage of the enhanced incentives, you should plan to complete your donation this year, and you need to get started now!