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Tax Court Holds Regulation Invalid; Allows Conservation Easement Deduction, Valley Park Ranch, LLC, TC, Dec. 62,442

The Tax Court has ruled against the IRS’s denial of a conservation easement deduction by declaring a Treasury regulation to be invalid under the enactment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

An LLC conveyed a conservation easement of land to a foundation that was properly registered with the county clerk. The deed conveyed the easement in perpetuity, allowing for extinguishment only in cases where the conservation purposes became impossible to accomplish or if the property were to be condemned by the local government through eminent domain. The LLC then timely filed Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, claiming a $14.8 million deduction under Code Sec. 170(h) for conveyance of the easement, and included with the return Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions.

The IRS disallowed the deduction stating the conservation purpose of the easement was not “protected in perpetuity” as required by Code Sec. 170(h)(5)(A) and, specifically, by operation of Reg. § 1.170A-14(g)(6)(ii). The LLC contended that Reg. § 1.170A-14(g)(6)(ii) is procedurally invalid under the APA and that the deed therefore need not comply with its requirements.

The Tax Court decided to reverse its prior position regarding the validity of this regulation in Oakbrook Land Holdings, LLC, (154 TC 180, Dec. 61,663; aff’d, CA-6, 2022-1 USTC ¶50,128). Despite the fact the Sixth Circuit affirmed this earlier opinion, the Eleventh Circuit had reversed the Tax Court on the same issue. This case is situated in the Tenth Circuit, which had not ruled on this issue.

The Tax Court agreed with the LLC’s argument that Reg. § 1.170A14(g)(6)(ii) is invalid because the concerns expressed in significant comments filed during the rulemaking process were inadequately responded to by the Treasury Department in the final regulation’s “basis and purpose” statement, in violation of the APA’s procedural requirements.

Four judges dissented, arguing there is no substantial basis for reversing their opinion of only four years prior, and that invalidating a regulation for failing to include a statement of basis and purpose should not occur when the basis and purpose are “obvious.”

Valley Park Ranch, LLC, 162 TC —, No. 6, Dec. 62,442

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