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Publication 225

Conservation Expenses(p28)

You can deduct conservation expenses only for land you or your tenant are using, or have used in the past, for farming. These expenses include, but are not limited to, the following.
  1. The treatment or movement of earth, such as:
    1. Leveling,
    2. Conditioning,
    3. Grading,
    4. Terracing,
    5. Contour furrowing, and
    6. Restoration of soil fertility.
  2. The construction, control, and protection of:
    1. Diversion channels,
    2. Drainage ditches,
    3. Irrigation ditches,
    4. Earthen dams, and
    5. Watercourses, outlets, and ponds.
  3. The eradication of brush.
  4. The planting of windbreaks.
You cannot deduct expenses to drain or fill wetlands, or to prepare land for center pivot irrigation systems, as soil and water conservation expenses. These expenses are added to the basis of the land.
If you choose to deduct soil and water conservation expenses, you cannot exclude from gross income any cost-sharing payments you receive for those expenses. See chapter 3 for information about payments eligible for the cost-sharing exclusion.

New farm or farmland.(p28)

If you acquire a new farm or new farmland from someone who was using it in farming immediately before you acquired the land, soil and water conservation expenses you incur on it will be treated as made on land used in farming at the time the expenses were paid or incurred. You can deduct soil and water conservation expenses for this land if your use of it is substantially a continuation of its use in farming. The new farming activity does not have to be the same as the old farming activity. For example, if you buy land that was used for grazing cattle and then prepare it for use as an apple orchard, you can deduct your conservation expenses.

Land not used for farming.(p29)

If your conservation expenses benefit both land that does not qualify as land used for farming and land that does qualify, you must allocate the expenses between the two types of land. For example, if the expenses benefit 200 acres of your land, but only 120 acres of this land are used for farming, then you can deduct 60% (120 ÷ 200) of the expenses. You can use another method to allocate these expenses if you can clearly show that your method is more reasonable.

Depreciable conservation assets.(p29)

You generally cannot deduct your expenses for depreciable conservation assets. However, you can deduct certain amounts you pay or incur for an assessment for depreciable property that a soil and water conservation or drainage district levies against your farm. See Assessment for Depreciable Property, later.
You must capitalize expenses to buy, build, install, or improve depreciable structures or facilities. These expenses include those for materials, supplies, wages, fuel, hauling, and moving dirt when making structures such as tanks, reservoirs, pipes, culverts, canals, dams, wells, or pumps composed of masonry, concrete, tile, metal, or wood. You recover your capital investment through annual allowances for depreciation.
You can deduct soil and water conservation expenses for nondepreciable earthen items. Nondepreciable earthen items include certain dams, ponds, and terraces described under Property Having a Determinable Useful Life in chapter 7.
Water well.(p29)
You cannot deduct the cost of drilling a water well for irrigation and other agricultural purposes as a soil and water conservation expense. It is a capital expense. You recover your cost through depreciation. You also must capitalize your cost for drilling a test hole. If the test hole produces no water and you continue drilling, the cost of the test hole is added to the cost of the producing well. You can recover the total cost through depreciation deductions.
If a test hole, dry hole, or dried-up well (resulting from prolonged lack of rain, for instance) is abandoned, you can deduct your unrecovered cost in the year of abandonment. Abandonment means that all economic benefits from the well are terminated. For example, filling or sealing a well excavation or casing so that all economic benefits from the well are terminated constitutes an abandonment.

Endangered species recovery expenses.(p29)

If you are in the business of farming and meet other specific requirements, you can choose to deduct the conservation expenses discussed earlier as endangered species recovery expenses. Otherwise, these are capital expenses that must be added to the basis of the land.
The expenses must be paid or incurred for the purpose of achieving site-specific management actions recommended in a recovery plan approved under section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. See Internal Revenue Code section 175 for more information.