Tax Policy:

How Tax Incentives Encourage Soil and Water Conservation Investments

GGD-86-116FS: Published: Aug 13, 1986. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the effect of soil and water conservation tax incentives to determine whether they are adequate to encourage farm landowners to invest in conservation efforts.

GAO found that: (1) 68 percent of the landowners who owned 63 percent of the farmland did not invest in conservation measures from 1980 through 1984; (2) 58 percent of the landowners did not invest in conservation measures because they felt that erosion was not a problem on their land; (3) for some landowners who believed that their land was eroding, governmental financial assistance was an important factor in their decision to make conservation investments; (4) those landowners who invested in soil conservation measures, as compared to those who did not, were likely to own more farmland and have greater farm income; and (5) landowners believed that the present tax deduction and government cost-sharing programs were responsible for 52 percent of the soil conservation expenditures and 44 percent of the conservation measures. GAO also found that: (1) regardless of the availability of government financial incentives, landowners would have implemented 37 percent of the soil conservation expenditures and 42 percent of the conservation measures; and (2) the combination of the tax deduction with cost-sharing payments encouraged the largest total expenditure in conservation measures.

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