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Planning and the Death of the Death Tax

On Wednesday afternoon the White House again proposed eliminating the so-called death tax as part of its tax reform plan, but the details remain sparse.  When pressed for specifics Director Cohn simply stated that with the implementation of the administration’s tax plan, the death tax would disappear.

The phrase “death tax” entered the popular lexicon by way of tax reformers wanting to summarize and caricature the several parts of the Federal transfer tax system.

What is the Death Tax?

The death tax could refer to the estate tax alone or to any combination of other taxes that grew out of the estate tax regime.  The modern estate tax was introduced in 1916.  In its current form it imposes a top rate of 40% on transfers above $5,490,000 per person made at death.

After the estate tax was instituted, savvy taxpayers quickly realized that a deathbed gift would avoid the estate

Don’t Get Stuck With a Non-Deductible Conservation Easement

October 6, 2014

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The increasingly popular conservation easement charitable deduction allows a landowner to deduct a portion of the value of a piece of land by limiting the land’s use.  In a typical scenario, a landowner records a conservation easement on the land and then donates the conservation easement to a conservation organization.  The landowner receives an appraisal of the value of (i) the developable land and (ii) the land once the conservation easement has been recorded.  The landowner then deducts the difference as a charitable contribution.  In such a scenario, Section 170 of the tax code allows a deduction as long as the easement is perpetual, made to a qualified organization, and for a valid conservation purpose.

The typical scenario is changing, however, as more and more landowners are holding their property in trust.  When the land is held in trust, it is more

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