CCLT and the membership advocate for strong conservation incentives and appropriate regulatory oversight of those conservation tools. No organization in Colorado has been as closely connected to the creation, support, and defense of the conservation easement tax credit as the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.
Below are bills related to the transferable conservation easement tax credit that CCLT, under the direction of the CCLT policy committee and membership, supported and championed at the Colorado legislation. It is important to note that CCLT’s advocacy on behalf of the tax credit extends far beyond the legislature and includes relationships with the Department of Revenue, the Department of Regulatory Agencies, the Attorney General, and the Governor’s Office. Ensuring that these stakeholders are also supportive of the tax credit has always been at the forefront of our strategy.
2015: SB-15-206 - changed the formula for calculating the transferable tax credit to 75% of the first donated $100,000 and 50% of the donated value above $100,000 up to $1.5 million to help offset the increased transaction costs for landowners and discourage phased conservation easement donations.
- 2013: SB-13-221 - transferred application and review process for tax credit certificates from the Department of Revenue (DOR) to the Division of Real Estate (DRE); tax credits now certified and final at time of issuance with the state, DOR continues to review conservation easement tax credits through 2014.
2011: HB-11-1300 - provided streamlined process for disputed tax credits from mid-2000's with the Department of Revenue to be resolved administratively or through the courts.
2008: HB-08-1353 - a reform bill to increase accountability and transparency through the tax credit certificate process, creating the Conservation Easement Oversight Committee, certification process for easement holders, and appraisals to be submitted to the Division of Real Estate (DRE)
2007: HB-07-1361 - first major reform to the conservation easement program with increased reporting standards for easement holders
2006: HB-06-1354 - changed the formula for calculating the transferable tax credit to a straight 50% of the donated value capped at $375,000
2000: HB-00-1348 - the tax credit became transferable with $20,000 minimum for sales/transfers
1999: HB-99-1155 - created the conservation easement tax credit, limited to $100,000 per donation.
CCLT additionally advocates for national legislation that supports land conservation in Colorado.
2015: Enhanced Federal tax incentive for conservation easement donations. The permanent conservation easement tax incentive is a powerful tool that helps Americans conserve their land voluntarily. Benefits of the permanent incentive include
- Allowing qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income.
- Extending the carry-forward period for a donor to take a tax deduction for a conservation agreement to 15 years.
- Providing a 50% deduction of his or her annual income for donating a conservation easement;
2014: Farm Bill conservation programs
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP): This program provides matching funds that land trusts can use to purchase conservation easements on agricultural land, grasslands, and wetlands. ACEP consists of the Agricultural Lands Easement (ALE) Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. For its part, ALE was formed by consolidating the former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and Grassland Reserve Program.
Healthy Forest Reserve: This program helps to protect and restore forest lands. To qualify, conservation projects must benefit endangered species, improve biodiversity, or enhance carbon sequestration. This program funds restoration activities as well as permanent or 30-year easements.
Forest Legacy Program: Authorized by the USDA Forest Service and funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the program protects private forest land by purchasing conservation easements or land in fee from voluntary landowners.
Community Forests: Authorized in the Farm Bill, The Community Forest Program is a grant program that authorizes the Forest Service to provide financial assistance to local governments, Tribal governments, and qualified nonprofit entities to establish community forests that provide continuing and accessible community benefits.