The Tax Court held that taxpayers who allowed local firefighters to conduct training exercises in a house they owned, which included burning the house to the ground, could not deduct the value of the destroyed structure as a charitable contribution under Section 170.
Taxpayers purchased a property in Vienna, Virginia with the intent of tearing down the existing structure and building a new home on it. Rather than simply tearing the existing house down the taxpayers allowed the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department to burn the house down as part of a training exercise. Before allowing the fire department to destroy the house, the taxpayers hired an outside appraisal firm to value the property with the then-existing structure. The taxpayers deducted approximately one half of the appraised value of the property as a non-cash charitable deduction. The IRS disallowed the deduction under examination and imposed accuracy-related penalties.
The court held that the taxpayers only gave the fire department a license to use the house and did not convey a property interest in the property. Since the taxpayers donated only the use of the property, it only constituted a partial property interest and therefore did not meet the requirements of Section 170(f)(3). Despite disallowing the deduction in full, the court refused to impose penalties.
Read the entire opinion here:
Patel v. Commissioner, 138 T.C. No. 23 (2012)