Starting in 2011, for the first time ever, landowners who engaged in conservation transactions with the Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT) or other land trusts or agencies may have been eligible for a powerful tax advantage—a State income tax credit worth up to, at the time, $50,000. This was exciting news for OCT and the landowners we were working with. While there have always been income tax deductions available for land gifts on donor’s federal returns, we have never been able to offer any incentives on the State tax side.
Now we are happy to report that on August 14th, Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law authorizing up to $2.23 billion in spending over the next four years to provide for the preservation and improvement of land, parks and clean energy across the Commonwealth. Included in the bill is an enhanced Conservation Land Tax Credit, which increases the individual credit from $50,000 to $75,000.
The type of transaction (land gift, conservation restriction, bargain sale, reserved life estate) is less important than the characteristics of the land itself, so long as the land is permanently protected. The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs must certify that the land preserved is significant to protect drinking water supplies, rare species and other wildlife habitats, agriculture or forestry, recreational opportunities and scenic or cultural values of state or regional importance. While those themes are fairly broad, OCT is happy to guide landowners through this determination process. You do not need to reside in Massachusetts or even pay taxes here to take advantage of this tax credit; so long as you own the land, and the land qualifies, you qualify. The credit comes to you in the form of a one-time payment, a check from the State.
If you have land on the Cape and are interested in preserving all or a portion of your land, and potentially taking advantage of this State Conservation Land tax credit opportunity, please contact Kris Ramsay, OCT Director, at 508-255-0183 or e-mail Kramsay@OrleansConservationTrust.org.