HB386 Modifies Tax Credit Program

June 28, 2012

The Georgia Land Conservation Program announces the following changes to the Conservation Tax Credit Program as a result of HB 386.

  • Requires donations to meet two (instead of one) conservation purposes.

  • Redefines eligible conservation purposes as:

    • Water quality protection for wetlands, rivers, streams, or lakes;

    • Protection of wildlife habitat consistent with state wildlife conservation policies;

    • Protection of outdoor recreation consistent with state outdoor recreation policies;

    • Protection of prime agricultural or forestry lands; and

    • Protection of cultural sites, heritage corridors, or archeological and historic resources.

  • Replaces the “Qualified Organizations” definition with the requirement that eligible non-governmental donation recipients be accredited by the Land Trust Alliance. This requirement goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

  • Reduces the maximum tax credit for partnership donors from $1 million to $500,000.

  • Requires appraisals to be submitted with tax credit applications and be approved by the State Properties Commission.

  • Requires donated lands to be subject to the following permanent restrictions:

    • No subdivision is permitted on properties smaller than 500 acres, and only one subdivision is permitted if the subject property is larger than 500 acres;

    • No permitted constructions may harm any existing conservation values on the property;

    • No permitted constructions may occur within 150 feet of perennial or intermittant streams;

    • No permitted constructions may increase impervious coverage to more than 1% of the property’s surface area;

    • Stream buffers that provide for at least 75% canopy cover must extend for at least 100 feet on either side of perennial streams and at least 50 feet on either side of intermittant streams;

    • Permitted agricultural or silvicultural activities must meet or exceed Best Management Practices, as established by the Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission or Georgia Forestry Commision;

    • No mining may be allowed on the property; and

    • No non-native invasive species listed in Categories 1 and 2 by the Georgia Exotic Pest Council may be planted.

  • Assesses an application fee equal to either:

    • 1% of the donated property value, if the donation has been accepted by a state agency; or

    • $5,000 for all other donations.

  • Requires ‘phased’ easements involving subdivided tracts to have a five-year waiting period between successive donations.

  • Limits the number of times a conservation tax credit may be transferred to one.

  • Increases potential penalties on appraisers who submit erroneous appraisals to a minimum of $10,000 and referral to the Georgia Real Estate Commission.

  • Requires taxpayers to ‘add back’ the value of their federal deductions before applying the conservation income tax credit to their state income tax return.

  • Prohibits local governments from holding conservation easements that are entirely outside their jurisdictions.