Net Present Value: Conservation easements growing in South Carolina

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Conservation easements growing in South Carolina

According to this New York Times story (registration required), many people are putting legal constraints on their plantations in order to help conserve both the homes and the land that currently surrounds them in places such as South Carolina:

To ensure that the plantation fantasy remains a reality in the low country of South Carolina, many plantation owners are putting conservation easements on their properties, which will keep them intact forever. It is a trend that accelerated after the media mogul Ted Turner put one on his plantation in 1989. He owns the 350-acre Hope Plantation in the Ace Basin area, outside Charleston.

...According to Scott Barnes, a tax attorney based in Charleston, easement volume has grown 40 to 50 percent just this year. When an easement is placed on a property, there is a tax deduction because the value of the property is usually diminished. The owner can take the difference in value between the as-is property and the property if developed and deduct it from income taxes. Although that is particularly helpful to people with high incomes, he pointed out that many families that have inherited large tracts of land are also getting conservation easements."There is an assumption that only rich people are doing this, but it's not the case," he said. "Many families are getting easements and they will never realize the tax break." It doesn't benefit them, he said, because they don't have a significant enough income to benefit from big tax write-offs.

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