11 Apr 2017

South Africa gets first biodiversity tax incentive

Surveying fiscal benefits pilot sites © Candice Stevens
Surveying fiscal benefits pilot sites © Candice Stevens
By Candice Stevens

BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project has successfully included the very first biodiversity tax incentive for protected areas in an annual tax return. This was achieved for the first time in South Africa at the end of 2016, on behalf of a landowner in an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).

The Fiscal Benefits project was launched in 2015, by BirdLife South Africa, to test the use and applicability of biodiversity tax incentives as a benefit for landowners who declare protected areas on their land, through the Biodiversity Stewardship initiative. The project had its first achievement when it influenced the introduction of a new tax incentive into national legislation leading to the inclusion of section 37D in the South African Income Tax Act. Section 37D is designed to give landowners a tax deduction for their conservation commitment. The incentive allows South African landowners to claim a reduced tax based on the value of the area of their land formally protected as a Nature Reserve or National Park.

Team work between farmers provincial conservation authorities and BirdLife South Africa © J Stapylton Smith

This achievement now paves the way for other privately-owned protected areas, bird and other species sanctuaries, to receive recognition through fiscal means. This move will encourage private landowners to dedicate portions of their land to conservation, and manage them accordingly.

BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project is a novel approach to biodiversity finance and leads the way in the use of biodiversity tax incentives. This project continues to assist landowners to access environmental tax incentives and to bolster bird and biodiversity conservation efforts nationwide. South Africa’s biodiversity and tax incentive work on privately protected areas is highly innovative and has received international recognition. It is the collaborative effort of key stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. It is funded by the Global Environment Fund in partnership with SANBI.

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