A preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that protects a significant historic, archaeological, or cultural resource. An easement provides assurance to the owner of a historic or cultural property that the property’s intrinsic values will be preserved through subsequent ownership. In addition, the owner may obtain substantial tax benefits.
An entire historic structure or just the facade or interior may qualify. Historic preservation easements also are used to protect a historic landscape, battlefield, traditional cultural place, or archaeological site.
Under the terms of an easement, a property owner grants a portion of, or interest in, their property rights to an organization whose mission includes historic preservation. Once recorded, an easement becomes part of the property’s chain of title and usually “runs with the land” in perpetuity, thus binding not only the owner who grants the easement but all future owners as well.
Benefits of Donating an Easement
An easement is a particularly useful historic preservation tool in several respects.
- It allows an individual to retain private ownership of the property and obtain potential financial benefits.
- An easement binds not only the current owner, but future owners as well, ensuring that the property will be maintained and preserved by future owners.
- Easements are tailored to meet the needs of the property owner, the individual resource, and the mission of the protecting organization. Thus an easement provides the owner with a flexible tool with which to preserve the property for future generations.
If certain criteria are met the owner also can receive a Federal income tax deduction equivalent to the value of the rights given away to a charitable or governmental organization. Additional financial benefits may be available in the form of reduced estate, gift, and local property taxes.
Further information is available from the National Park Service at: http://www.nps.gov/tps/tax-incentives.htm
Easements to Protect Historic Properties: A Useful Historic Preservation Tool with Potential Tax Benefits (PDF)