Champions Retreat Golf Founders, LLC v. Commissioner: Golf Course Qualifies for Charitable Deduction Due to its Wildlife Conservation

Willie Wofford*

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In Champions Retreat Golf Founders, LLC v. Commissioner, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether a taxpayer qualified for a charitable deduction for a donation of a conservation easement that encompassed a private golf course as well as undeveloped land. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the Tax Court’s decision to uphold the Commissioner of Internal Revenue’s denial of the charitable deduction, “[b]ecause the [Internal Revenue] Code does not disqualify an easement just because it includes a golf course . . . . Owners of golf courses and other similarly developed commercial properties likely see Champions as a new tax-break opportunity. The Eleventh Circuit’s finding that Champions’ easement property satisfied the meaning of a relatively natural habitat, despite the use of chemicals, artificial drainage, and introduction of nonnative species, provides a baseline of the extent and type of property modifications that can exist within the limits of the Code.

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