3 conservation policy wins we’re celebrating

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Bison roaming Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service Midwest

This winter solstice, INHF is celebrating three pieces of conservation policy signed by President Obama last week that provide huge support to Iowans hoping to do individual conservation and support conservation efforts in Iowa.

Conservation Easement tax incentives
Conservation easements are a great way for Iowans who want to protect the natural resource value of their land in the future. Iowans who donate a conservation easement are eligible for income tax credits to offset the value of their land donation. First enacted as temporary provisions in 2006 (needing to be renewed on a yearly basis), these tax incentives are directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. Last Friday, Congress and the president approved these tax incentives as permanent.

The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

The incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.

“It’s such a gift to our work – to be able to explain to donors with certainty that those tax benefits will be there to serve them and help them do the right thing for the land and for conservation,” said Anita O’Gara, Senior Director of Development and Communications.

Charitable contributions from IRA
For those aged 70½ or older, it is once again possible to make tax-favored charitable gifts from traditional and Roth IRA accounts.

On December 18 the President signed into law legislation that retroactively extends the charitable IRA rollover for 2015 and makes this provision permanent for future years. A total of up to $100,000 can be transferred directly from traditional or Roth IRAs to one or more qualified charities such as Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation free from federal income tax each year. There may also be state income tax savings. Amounts given in this way count toward required IRA minimum withdrawal amounts for the year of the gift.

To make such gifts, it is important to not withdraw funds prior to a gift, but have the gift amount distributed directly from an IRA to one or more qualified charities. For those with check writing privileges on their accounts, this may be the most efficient way to make gifts directly from an IRA.

Check with us, your IRA administrator or your tax advisor for more information.

Land & Water Conservation Fund
Included in this year’s spending bill was a budget for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which had expired three months ago. LWCF is one of the best tools government agencies and private organizations have for creating parks and public lands across the country. The fund is funded by offshore drilling royalties and uses that money to pay for local, state, and national parks, as well as other public lands such as forests, shorelines, historic sites, and wildlife refuges.

The president signed a three-year extension for the program. LWCF will receive $450 million, a boost in funding from previous years.

LWCF has had an $70.5 million impact in Iowa, funding projects like Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge complex.

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