A Practical Guide to Section 170(h) Tax Deduction

Encouraging and rewarding efforts towards land conservation
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At its core, Section 170(h) of the IRS code is about encouraging and rewarding efforts towards land conservation. If you’re considering making a contribution towards the preservation of natural habitats, outdoor recreation spaces, or historically significant land, understanding the intricacies of this tax provision is crucial.

Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

  • Section 170(h) offers tax deductions for contributions of real property interests for conservation purposes.
  • To qualify, contributions must be made to a certified organization and must serve a recognized conservation purpose.
  • The contributed property’s conservation purpose must be protected in perpetuity.

For many, the appeal of Section 170(h) goes beyond tax savings; it’s about making a lasting impact on the environment and society. However, navigating the eligibility criteria and understanding how to maximize your tax benefits can be challenging.

Detailed infographic description: A colorful infographic titled "Quick Guide to Section 170(h) Tax Deductions" features three main sections. The first section, labeled "Eligibility," showcases icons of a land parcel, a nonprofit organization, and a clock symbolizing perpetuity. The second section, "Taxpayer Benefits," displays a graph trending upward, symbolizing potential tax savings, and a heart symbolizing societal impact. The final section, "How to Claim," presents a checklist icon, a calendar, and an official IRS form, directing towards necessary steps for claiming the deduction. The bottom of the infographic includes a call to action: "Make a Lasting Impact - Learn More Inside." - Section 170(h) of the IRS code infographic 3_stage_pyramid

As we delve further into this guide, we aim to simplify the complexity surrounding Section 170(h), ensuring you’re equipped to both reap the benefits and contribute towards the greater good without getting lost in tax jargon. Let’s get started.

What is Section 170(h) of the IRS Code?

Section 170(h) of the IRS code is like a bridge connecting the interests of landowners with the need to preserve our natural and historical treasures. It outlines how you can get tax deductions for donating property rights for conservation purposes. But, let’s break this down into bite-sized pieces to make it crystal clear.


In simple terms, Section 170(h) focuses on qualified conservation contributions. Think of it as a special offer from the IRS: if you help protect nature, historical sites, or open spaces, they’ll give you a tax break. It’s their way of saying “thanks” for keeping the planet green and history alive.

Qualified Conservation Contribution

This is the heart of the matter. A qualified conservation contribution is a gift of a property interest to a nonprofit or a governmental entity that promises to use the land only for conservation. It’s like handing over a precious family heirloom to a museum, trusting they’ll treasure it as you do.

Qualified Real Property Interest

Not everything qualifies. The property interest you donate could be your entire property, a part of it, or just some rights over its use (like not building a mall there). The key is that it must be forever. Yes, forever. This ensures that the land you love remains protected, no matter how many years roll by.

conservation land - Section 170(h) of the IRS code

Qualified Organization

Your donation needs a good home. A qualified organization could be a charity dedicated to nature conservation or a government body that knows how to handle such gifts. They’re the guardians of your contribution, ensuring it serves its green purpose.

Conservation Purposes

Why are you doing this? The IRS wants to know. The purpose must be specific: preserving nature, outdoor recreation, safeguarding a habitat, or protecting a historical site. It’s not just about owning land but about preserving its value for everyone to enjoy.

Perpetuity Requirement

This is where the “forever” part comes in. For your donation to count, the conservation effort must be permanent. It’s a promise that the land will remain as is, come what may, ensuring that future generations can enjoy its beauty or learn from its history.

Section 170(h) of the IRS code is a powerful tool for those who care deeply about conservation. It offers a way to make a lasting impact while receiving a thank-you note in the form of a tax deduction from the federal government. Whether you’re passionate about preserving natural habitats, ensuring public access to outdoor recreation, or safeguarding historical sites, this section of the tax code provides a path to contribute to these causes in a meaningful way.

Remember the essence of Section 170(h): it’s not just about tax savings; it’s about making a difference. With the right information and guidance, you can navigate this process smoothly and contribute to the preservation of our planet’s and nation’s treasures.

Next up, let’s look into who’s eligible for these deductions and how you can be one of those lucky individuals.

Eligibility for Section 170(h) Deductions

Diving into Section 170(h) of the IRS code, you might wonder, “Am I eligible for these deductions?” Let’s break it down into simple terms so you can easily find out.

Qualified Organizations

First off, not just any organization can help you claim a deduction under Section 170(h). The organization must be a qualified organization. This means:

  • It could be part of the government or
  • A non-profit that’s all about conservation.

Think of groups working to keep our parks beautiful, protect wildlife, or preserve historic sites. If they’re officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) and meet specific criteria, you’re on the right track.

Conservation Purposes

Your contribution has to be for a conservation purpose. This isn’t about giving money. It’s about giving rights to use your land in ways that help the planet or the community. Here are the main goals:

  • Outdoor recreation for everyone,
  • Protecting nature’s homes (like forests or wildlife habitats),
  • Keeping open spaces open, and
  • Saving important historical sites.

If your contribution aims to achieve one of these, you’re moving in the right direction.

Real Property Interests

Now, what are you actually giving? It’s not about handing over a backpack full of cash. It’s about real property interests. This could be:

  • Giving up all your rights to the land (except for minerals underground),
  • A part of the land that you’ll give up later (like in a will), or
  • An agreement that limits what can be done on the land forever.


This word sounds complicated, but it’s just a fancy way of saying forever. Your agreement to limit the use of the land has to last forever. It’s a promise that the land will be protected for generations to come, not just a few years.

Mineral Interests

Lastly, let’s talk about what’s under the ground. If there are minerals (like oil or gas), things get a bit more complicated. You can still qualify, but there are extra rules to make sure mining doesn’t ruin the conservation efforts.

  • If you’re keeping mineral rights, mining can’t happen in a way that messes up the surface.
  • If the land’s owner and the mineral rights owner are different, the risk of mining has to be really low.

So, are you eligible? If you’re working with the right organization, aiming to protect the land for good reasons, and making a forever promise, you might just be.

Next, we’ll guide you through calculating how much you can deduct and how to make it official with the IRS.

Calculating Your Deduction

Now that you know if you’re eligible for a Section 170(h) deduction, let’s talk about how you can figure out how much you can deduct. This part is crucial because it helps you understand the financial impact of your conservation efforts.

Deduction Limits

First things first, there’s a cap on how much you can deduct. Generally, you can deduct up to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year. But, if you’re donating farmland or ranchland, you might bump that up to 100% of your AGI. If your donation is more generous than these limits allow, don’t worry. You can carry forward the unused portion of your deduction for up to 15 years.

Appraisal Requirements

For any deduction over $5,000, the IRS wants proof of the property’s value. That’s where appraisals come in. You’ll need a qualified appraisal to attach to your tax return if your deduction is more than $500,000. This appraisal must be done by a qualified appraiser and follow specific standards.

Qualified Appraisal

A qualified appraisal is an in-depth report that tells the IRS exactly how much your donated property is worth. It isn’t something you can do on your own or get from a friend who dabbles in real estate. The appraisal must be performed by someone who has earned a professional designation from a recognized appraiser organization or meets certain education and experience requirements.

The appraisal must include:

  • A detailed description of the property
  • The physical condition of any buildings
  • The date (or expected date) of the contribution
  • The terms of any agreement you’ve made with the donee organization

The appraisal must be made no earlier than 60 days before you donate the property and no later than the due date (including extensions) of the tax return for the year you claim the deduction.

Appraiser Qualifications

Choosing the right appraiser is key. A qualified appraiser is someone who:

  • Has a recognized appraiser certification or has met specific education and experience requirements.
  • Regularly prepares appraisals for which they are paid.
  • Understands how to value the specific type of property you’re donating.
  • Hasn’t been banned from practicing before the IRS at any time during the three years preceding the appraisal.

With your appraisal in hand and a clear understanding of the deduction limits, you’re ready to move on to making your conservation contribution official with the IRS.

Let’s dive into the filing requirements and documentation you’ll need to secure your deduction.

How to Claim Your Deduction

Claiming a deduction under Section 170(h) of the IRS code might seem like a tall task, but it’s pretty straightforward when you break it down. Here’s how you can ensure that your contribution doesn’t just help conserve land but also brings you some tax benefits.

Filing Requirements

First things first, you need to make sure your ducks are in a row when it comes to filing. This means having all your documentation ready and knowing which IRS forms to fill out.


Documentation is key to claiming your deduction successfully. You’ll need:

  • A qualified appraisal for the contributed property.
  • An agreement with the qualified organization specifying the conservation purposes.
  • Photographs of the property to support the appraisal.
  • Maps showing the property and the conservation area.

Keep these documents safe! You might need to present them to the IRS if asked.

IRS Forms

When it comes to IRS forms, you’ll mainly deal with:

  • Form 8283, “Noncash Charitable Contributions,” for reporting the value of your contributed property.
  • Attach the qualified appraisal to your tax return if your contribution is valued over a certain amount.

Make sure to fill these forms out carefully. Mistakes can delay or even jeopardize your deduction.

Timing of Contributions

Timing matters. To claim a deduction for the current tax year, you need to make your contribution by December 31st of that year. This is straightforward for cash contributions, but for conservation easements, ensure all paperwork and approvals are completed before the year-end.

Accrual Basis Corporations

If you’re an accrual basis corporation, there’s a bit of flexibility. You can authorize a charitable contribution at the end of the tax year and actually make the payment by the 15th day of the 4th month following the close of the tax year. This allows you to claim the deduction for the previous year. However, this only applies to accrual basis corporations.

Important: Always check for any updates or changes to the tax code. The IRS occasionally updates rules and forms, which could impact how you claim your deduction.

By following these steps and ensuring you have all the necessary documentation and forms filled out correctly, you’ll be well on your way to claiming your conservation contribution deduction. Next, let’s tackle some of the most common questions taxpayers have about Section 170(h) of the IRS code.

Frequently Asked Questions about Section 170(h)

When navigating the complexities of Section 170(h) of the IRS code, it’s natural to have questions. Let’s dive into some of the most frequently asked questions to clarify this important topic.

What is the difference between 170(c)(1) and 501(c)(3)?

170(c)(1) and 501(c)(3) both relate to organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, but they focus on different entities.

  • 170(c)(1) refers to contributions made directly to government entities like states, possessions of the United States, or any political subdivision (like cities or counties), but only if the contribution is for public purposes.
  • 501(c)(3), on the other hand, is about nonprofit organizations that are exempt from federal income tax. These organizations must operate exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, educational, or similar purposes.

In simple terms, 170(c)(1) is for government entities, and 501(c)(3) is for nonprofit organizations.

What is a qualified conservation contribution?

A qualified conservation contribution is a special kind of gift you can give that helps protect nature, historical sites, or open spaces. For it to count:

  • It must be a real property interest, like land or certain rights in land.
  • You give it to an organization that knows how to handle such gifts (like a land trust or some nonprofits).
  • It must be for the sake of conservation, like keeping a natural habitat safe or preserving farmland.

This is a way to make sure beautiful and important places stay that way forever.

How do conservation purposes affect eligibility?

For your contribution to qualify, it needs to meet one of the specific conservation purposes outlined in Section 170(h):

  • Outdoor recreation or education for the public: Think of lands open for hiking or educational nature trails.
  • Protecting natural habitats: This includes areas important for animals, plants, or the ecosystem.
  • Preserving open spaces: This can be for the public to enjoy the view or because it’s important to follow certain government conservation policies. It should also offer a clear benefit to the public.
  • Historical preservation: This includes protecting historical lands or buildings that hold significance.

Your contribution’s goal must align with one of these purposes, and it has to last forever. This ensures that the land or property you’re helping protect stays protected for generations to come.

With these questions answered, you should have a clearer understanding of how Section 170(h) works and how you can participate in land conservation efforts. Conservation easements are a powerful tool for preserving the natural and historical treasures that enrich our communities and our planet.


As we wrap up our journey through the intricacies of Section 170(h) of the IRS code, it’s clear that this provision offers a meaningful path for both landowners and conservationists to achieve their goals. The benefits of conservation easements are vast, touching on environmental, historical, and personal levels.

Benefits of Conservation Easements

Conservation easements serve a dual purpose: they safeguard the land for future generations while providing financial benefits to the present landowner. Here’s a quick rundown of these benefits:

  • Environmental Preservation: They protect natural habitats, scenic views, and historical lands from future development, ensuring that these lands remain untouched for public enjoyment and ecological balance.
  • Tax Incentives: For landowners, donating a conservation easement can lead to significant tax deductions under Section 170(h). This not only lowers the immediate tax burden but also contributes to long-term financial planning and estate management.
  • Legacy Building: By preserving land, landowners can leave a lasting legacy that contributes to the community and the environment. This act of conservation can be a powerful statement of values passed down through generations.

Rockerbox Tax Solutions

At Rockerbox Tax Solutions, we understand the complexities and nuances of tax codes like Section 170(h). Our team is dedicated to helping you navigate these waters, ensuring that you can take full advantage of the benefits while aligning with your conservation goals.

  • Expert Guidance: Our experts are well-versed in the IRS code and are equipped to provide you with the advice and strategies you need to make informed decisions about conservation easements.
  • Customized Strategies: We recognize that every landowner’s situation is unique. That’s why we tailor our tax mitigation strategies to fit your specific needs, helping you maximize your benefits and impact.
  • Peace of Mind: With Rockerbox Tax Solutions, you can rest assured that your conservation efforts and tax planning are in good hands. We’re here to guide you through every step of the process, from understanding the eligibility criteria to claiming your deduction.

Conservation Land - Section 170(h) of the IRS code

Conservation easements are more than just a tax deduction; they’re a commitment to preserving the beauty and integrity of our natural and historical landscapes. By choosing to donate a conservation easement, you’re making a powerful choice for the environment, your community, and your financial wellbeing.

At Rockerbox Tax Solutions, we’re passionate about helping you turn that choice into a reality. Whether you’re just starting to explore the idea of a conservation easement or you’re ready to take the next steps, we’re here to support you. Together, we can work towards a greener, more sustainable future.

Unlock the full potential of your land and your tax strategy with Rockerbox Tax Solutions. Let’s preserve the beauty of our world, one piece of land at a time.

Preserved Land - Section 170(h) of the IRS code

Conservation easements offer a path to achieve lasting impact. Explore how with Rockerbox Tax Solutions.