Access to Data on IRS Valuations of Conservation Easements in Colorado
The IRS continues to focus on abuse of charitable contributions of conservation easements. The primary issue in many cases is the value donors claim for their contribution. Colorado has been the focus of this issue because of the large number of donations made by land developers and intensive development pressure in the state. This led the IRS to develop a detailed valuation study of land and easements. Five IRS employees spend more than one year compiling, organizing, reviewing and analyzing the information that went in a "matrix" summarizing the data. Access to the complete matrix was a discovery issue in RCL Properties, Inc., [Federal District Court of Colorado, 2009-1 USTC 50,114; 102 AFTR 2d 2008-7302, 12/11/2008]. Discovery is the process that takes place before a case goes to trial whereby each party has access to each other's information that is required to properly counter arguments made by the other side. In this case, the taxpayer, RLC Properties, Inc. wanted access to the complete matrix, not the summaries provided to them by the IRS. The taxpayer is a partnership and the IRS imposed a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustments ("FPAA") based on the IRS's valuation of the conservation easement donated. The court ruled that the taxpayer has the right to access the complete matrix since it is not based on information from individual taxpayer returns. The matrix may become part of the published trial record.