Selecting Your Professional Team
Once you know that you want to donate your land or a conservation easement, the most important steps are finding the right professionals to work on your team to get your land protected in a way that works for you and your family. Your first team member is your land conservation organization, either a non-profit land trust or a government agency with a land conservation program.
Land conservation organizations come in all shapes and sizes. There are large international organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. There are also smaller local organizations that specialize in one or two counties or valleys, such as the Santa Fe Conservation Trust and the Taos Land Trust. In between are state-wide land trusts, such as New Mexico Land Conservancy. There are also land trusts that specialize in certain types of lands such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. It is important to select an organization that has a mission that fits with your goals for your land and one with whom you feel comfortable. Tax Credit Connection, Inc. can help you find a land conservation organization that works for you.
Other key members of your team are your advisors – attorneys and accountants. When looking for an attorney to work on your conservation easement, it is important to find one who is experienced in helping landowners negotiate and draft conservation easements. It is also helpful if the attorney has worked with other landowners who have donated land or conservation easements to the same land conservation organization you are planning to work with. The same is true for accountants. It may be that your family accountant has not worked with conservation tax credits and other conservation easement tax benefits. If that is the case, you may want to hire another accountant to work with your family accountant on the conservation donation aspect of your tax return. The laws are very complicated, so you want to be sure you are working with a professional who knows the stumbling blocks and how to get over them.
You will also need to hire a qualified appraiser to value your conservation donation. Much like the above warnings regarding attorneys and accountants, you also want to hire an appraiser who is experienced in conducting qualified appraisals and has worked in the geographic area where your land is located. Qualified appraisals are an investment that you must take seriously. If your appraisal does not meet the state and federal requirements for a qualified appraisal, your tax benefits may be in jeopardy. In addition, the Taxation and Revenue Department reviews each appraisal during the eligibility and certification application process to determine whether you are be eligible to receive conservation tax credits. You also want to know that if you are selected for an audit, you have an experienced and qualified appraiser on your team.