If you have property that you would like preserve in its present form, there is nothing so close to a free lunch as the donation of an easement. Out in the country, you will call it a conservation easement. In the big city it is a facade easement. In either case, the principle is the same.
Sometimes one of the greatest charitable gifts you can bestow is the mere promise not to do anything with, or to, what you own. Of course, this common conundrum occurs most frequently when you happen to be sitting on a piece of history.
Whether the property is in the country or in the city, the challenge is the same: how to protect the property from development in perpetuity. Sometimes, however, the key is convincing the IRS of the charitable value of the property itself. If you have an asset worth this kind of consideration, and the hope to preserve it, then an “easement” may be necessary.
In the city there are “façade” easements, and in the country there are “conservation” easements. Both are worthwhile means to a charitable end.
Consider Peter Reilly’s recent post in Forbes, titled “Donating TriBeCa Facade Easement Is Like Renouncing Your Super Powers,” about an illustrative case in TriBeCa, Manhattan. The story highlights some possible, practical complications that may arise when the situation seems too good to be true. After all, an easement is a unique way of giving to charity and your neighborhood, but only when the IRS agrees.
A practical concern, if successful in obtaining the easement with IRS approval, is in finding a charity to enforce your charitable gift and the easement of your property.
Ultimately, the end result may be worth the work if you preserve your posterity property in perpetuity from development in the hands of an inevitable McDonalds or Starbucks franchisee. The charitable tax deduction can come in handy, to boot.
Reference: Forbes (May 7, 2012 “Donating TriBeCa Facade Easement Is Like Renouncing Your Super Powers”