The Strategic Edge

The Strategic Edge

The Strategic Edge

Donating Oil and Gas Interests to a Donor-Advised Fund

Donating Oil and Gas Interests to a Donor-Advised Fund

Donating Oil and Gas Interests to a Donor-Advised Fund

In the complex landscape of philanthropy and tax planning, donating a working interest in an oil and gas well to a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) stands out as a particularly strategic move for those involved in the energy sector. This approach not only facilitates significant philanthropic impact but also offers a compelling tax strategy for donors. By transferring ownership of these assets to a DAF, donors can potentially bypass substantial capital gains tax obligations while supporting their charitable goals. In this blog post, we will explore the nuances of this strategy, its benefits, and considerations to keep in mind when donating oil and gas interests to a DAF.

The Appeal of the IDC Deduction

By investing in the production of an oil and gas well, investors can initially benefit from the Intangible Drilling Cost (IDC) deduction, which allows for the deduction of all the investment costs that involve labor, services, and non-salvageable materials. These costs are typically 65% to 80% of the total investment. The IDC is also a rare case of a tax deduction that can be taken in its entirety in the year the costs are incurred.

Donating the Interest to a DAF

This strategy achieves its full potential when the working interest is held for a period of at least one year. As the asset is developed, the value of the interest may appreciate. At that juncture, the investor may choose to donate the appreciated asset to a DAF. This donation allows the donor to receive the full fair market value of the appraised interest as a deduction, as well as support their preferred charitable causes through the DAF.

This approach offers a dual benefit: it minimizes the investor's tax liability in the year of the investment through the IDC deduction and maximizes their charitable deduction upon donation.

Strategic Philanthropy Through DAFs

A DAF serves as a philanthropic vehicle that allows donors to make charitable contributions, receive immediate tax benefits, and then recommend grants from the fund over time to eligible charities. 

When a working interest in an oil and gas well is donated to a DAF after the first year of drilling, the transaction may unlock several strategic advantages:

  • Upfront Tax Deductions: Donors can receive an immediate tax deduction in the year the donation is made, based on the fair market value of the assets, subject to IRS limitations and regulations. This deduction can significantly reduce the donor's taxable income.

  • Avoidance of Capital Gains Tax: By donating the working interest to a DAF before it is sold, donors can avoid capital gains exposure generated by a sale of the asset. This is particularly advantageous for highly appreciated assets.

  • Philanthropic Impact: The donation allows the income and eventual sale proceeds from the working interest to be directed toward charitable causes, amplifying the donor's philanthropic impact over time.

Considerations for Donating Oil and Gas Interests

While the benefits are clear, there are important considerations for donors looking to contribute oil and gas interests to a DAF:

  • Appraisal: To receive a deduction for donations totaling more than $5,000, the donor must obtain a qualified third party appraisal of the donated interest.

  • Other Tax Considerations: While a donation can offer significant tax benefits, it is important to consider the potential for unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) as well as depletion and depreciation recapture rules.

Best Practices for Donating Oil and Gas Interests

To navigate the complexities of donating oil and gas assets to a DAF, donors should:

  • Engage Experts: Consult with tax professionals, legal advisors, and environmental consultants to ensure a thorough understanding of the assets' value, potential tax benefits, and any environmental implications.

  • Choose the Right DAF Sponsor: Work with a DAF sponsor experienced in handling complex asset donations, including oil and gas assets, to ensure the process is managed efficiently and in compliance with all regulations.

  • Plan Strategically: Consider the timing of the donation in the context of market conditions, tax planning, and philanthropic goals to maximize the benefits of the donation.


Donating oil and gas interests to a DAF presents a sophisticated strategy for philanthropically minded individuals in the energy sector. This approach not only enables significant charitable contributions, but also offers attractive tax advantages. By carefully considering the valuation, and regulatory requirements, and by collaborating with experienced advisors and DAF sponsors, donors can leverage their oil and gas assets to achieve meaningful philanthropic outcomes while optimizing their tax position.

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