Upstate Forever presents four regional conferences on private land conservation
Published 10:00 pm Friday, February 26, 2016
Your Land, Your Legacy conferences will be held in Spartanburg, Greenville, Seneca, and Waterloo for landowners, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, and foresters. For owners of farms and forests in the Upstate of South Carolina, there has never been a better time to learn about available conservation options and the tax benefits they may include.
Upstate Forever is presenting a conference in four regional locations to provide a comprehensive overview of conservation agreements and their benefits. These events are March 1, 9 a.m-12 p.m. at Wade’s Restaurant in Spartanburg; March 1,
3–6 p.m. at Tommy’s Ham House in Greenville; March 3, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Seneca; and March 3, 3–6 p.m. at Lee’s Barbecue in Waterloo. The cost includes a meal. Visit upstateforever.org/your-land-your-legacy/ for more information or to register.
A conservation agreement, also called a conservation easement, is a contract between a landowner and a qualified land trust, such as Upstate Forever, which allows the owner to permanently restrict certain undesirable uses on their property. It is also a useful tool for landowners who plan to gift or sell their land, but want to ensure it remains a farm or forest.
This agreement is permanent and remains with the land even after it has been sold, gifted, or willed to heirs. Conservation agreements typically prevent land uses such as residential subdivisions, commercial or industrial operations, and mining, while allowing traditional rural land uses, such as farming, grazing, hunting, and timbering.
The terms of a conservation agreement are negotiable, and vary greatly depending on the landowner’s intentions for their property and the conservation values being protected. A conservation agreement never allows public access unless it is the express desire of the landowner.
There are significant federal, state and estate tax benefits for qualifying landowners who enter into a conservation agreement. These benefits help offset the loss in value between the most profitable use of the property, such as selling the farm for industrial development, and the value under the terms of the conservation agreement, which keeps the land essentially as it is today.
At the end of 2015, a major budget and tax compromise bill passed by Congress enhanced the tax incentives for land protection. Under this bill, up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) is deductible in any one year. If most of a landowner’s income is from farming, ranching or forestry, this increases to 100 percent of AGI. If the value of the donation exceeds these limits in the year of the gift, the deduction can be carried forward for up to 15 years. These changes ensure that more landowners from every economic level can enjoy the full benefit of their gift of a conservation agreement.
There is also a state tax credit and an estate tax benefit, both of which can be significant factors in a landowner’s estate plans. Anyone considering a conservation agreement should speak to a professional financial advisor.
With these enhanced incentives firmly in place, there has never been a better time for the owners of land with significant natural, cultural, agricultural, or historic resources, and for their advisors, to learn about conservation agreements. The Your Land, Your Legacy conferences on March 1 and 3 are a great way to begin.
Anyone with questions about conservation agreements is encouraged to contact Upstate Forever at 864-250-0500 ext. 26 or email@example.com.
-Submitted by Nancy Fitzer