Tuesday, March 29, 2011
IRS Groundwater Depletion Allowance
In 1973 three Kansas irrigators began claiming the same allowance, and ended up suing the IRS in 1978 after having been denied the claims. They eventually won also, and the IRS revised the ruling again (82-214) for the rest of the Ogallala.
Basically to claim the deduction, you must show the IRS you own or have an economic interest in the land, the water table is declining due to its use, that recharge is negligbile or non-existent and that you have a cost in water that is devaluing as the groundwater depletes. Practically, you need credible water level information for each year once you establish your cost in water for the land.
I often wonder if the rulings have had any impact on groundwater use or conservation in the Ogallala. The attorneys that litigated the Kansas case reported in 1980 that it could mean as much as $1 billion less tax burden to irrigators in Kansas alone - over the life of the aquifer. Personally I don't think it is used all that much in NW Kansas - where the cost in water has always been harder to establish, and the declines less significant. But where this is not true, I can see tax benefits to depleting the groundwater on schedule.
This'd be a good investigative report for some aspiring hydro-journalist some day. I wonder how easy it would be to get a freedom of information request approved by the IRS for all such claimants by state? Could be a very interesting study.