[IN-DEPTH] Easement program failures penalize taxpayers, landowners

Colorado has a unique tax incentive program that allows the transfer of conservation easement tax credits from landowners to Colorado resident taxpayers.
Colorado has a unique tax incentive program that allows the transfer of conservation easement tax credits from landowners to Colorado resident taxpayers.

By David Migoya | The Denver Post

Rocky Ford hay farmer Timothy Crow despises staring at bankruptcy. The 61-year-old says he hates it even more that Colorado put him there. “This was supposed to be a good thing for everyone,” Crow says of the state’s conservation easement program, where land-rich but cash-poor ranchers and farmers like him can preserve their property forever in return for needed income. “It’s become a living nightmare,” he said.

Crow and thousands of others like him preserved millions of acres of land in return for state income-tax credits they could either sell for cash or use to pay their own income tax bill.

Now, the state is forcing a handful of those landowners — and hundreds of people who bought those credits — to pay as much as $220 million in back taxes because the state says the land isn’t worth what the landowners claimed.

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