No Deduction for Façade Easement Donation, But Big Penalties Imposed.

This is the most recent court opinion in a line of opinions involving the petitioners and their attempt to obtain a tax deduction for a permanent conservation easement donation.  Initially, the court disallowed a deduction on the basis that the easement was not protected in perpetuity.  That decision was affirmed on rehearing and a negligence penalty was not imposed on the basis that the matter was one of first impression.  On appeal of that decision, the appellate court reversed on the basis that the Tax Court analyzed the case incorrectly.  On remand, the Tax Court focused on valuation and did not give any weight to the taxpayer's expert that took a flat 12 percent reduction from fair market value for the "after easement" value of the property.  The Tax Court found the testimony of the expert for the IRS more credible.  That testimony, based on sales data, demonstrated that the façade easement restriction had no impact on market value of the property due largely to existing restrictions imposed by local historical district ordinances.  The Tax Court imposed negligence penalties of 40 percent of the amount of the underpayment and a 20 percent negligence penalty.  Kaufman v. Comr., T.C. Memo. 2014-52.