Failure to Attach Qualified Appraisal Fatal to Taxpayer's Claimed Deduction of Qualified Conservation Easement

Being "close" to what is required is not enoughtCongress has enacted rather detailed requirements that must be met in order to claim a charitable contribution deduction.  One of those is the requirement at IRC §170(h)(4)(B)(iii) that provides as one of the requirements to make a deductible contribution of a qualified contribution easement the following:

(iii) in the case of any contribution made in a taxable year beginning after the date of the enactment of this subparagraph, the taxpayer includes with the taxpayer's return for the taxable year of the contribution -

(I) a qualified appraisal (within the meaning of subsection (f)(11)(E)) of the qualified property interest…

As the taxpayers in the case of Gemperle v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2016-1 discovered, a failure to meet such requirements will be fatal to the claimed deduction.

The taxpayers in question made a claimed contribution of a qualified conservation easement of the facade of their home.   They obtained an appraisal that determined a value of $108,000 for the easement. 

However the Court noted the following information about what was sent in with their returns:

Petitioners timely made joint returns of income on Forms 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for their 2007 and 2008 taxable (calendar) years (2007 and 2008 return, respectively). Those returns show that they were prepared by a paid tax return preparer, Norton V. Binenfeld, certified public accountant (C.P.A.). Petitioners attached to the 2007 return an incomplete Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, claiming a deduction for the noncash charitable contribution of the facade easement to Landmark. No appraisal is included with the 2007 return. On or around October 22, 2010, petitioners submitted a corrected Form 8283 to respondent. Both Forms 8283 show that they are a version of Form 8283 that was revised in December 2006. Both state: “An appraisal is generally required for property listed in Section B (see instructions).” Section B addresses donated property valued at over $5,000. Instructions for Form 8283, also revised December 2006, state that, for contributions of easements made on buildings in historic districts, the taxpayer must include with his return a “qualified appraisal”.

The Court, noting that both the plain language of the Code provision cited above and the explanation of the provision found in the Joint Committee on Taxation’s Explanation of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 which contained this provision indicated a failure to attach the appraisal voided the deduction, held:

The parties have stipulated a copy of the 2007 return, and nothing resembling a qualified appraisal is included with it. Indeed, petitioners concede on brief: "We admit that the full [Fiorenzo] appraisal was not included with the [2007] return". For lack of a qualified appraisal included with the 2007 return, we will sustain respondent's adjustments disallowing for 2007 and 2008 petitioners' charitable contribution deductions claimed on account of their contribution of the facade easement to Landmark.

Under the current law that exists for charitable contributions there are specific types of documentation that must exist and, in certain cases, items that must be included with a tax return to claim the deduction. The Tax Court has made it clear that it will respect the plain language that Congress enacted that mandates a denial of the deduction in any case where the provisions of §170 are not meticulously complied with.