The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act is fair, it is reasonable and, as we see from the revenue estimate, it is essential to safeguard taxpayers from these bad actors.
WASHINGTON July 11, 2019
The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America, today welcomed an official revenue estimate for the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.
According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Tax, the legislation to end abusive conservation easement tax shelters will generate $6.6 billion in federal revenue. The revenue estimate is predicated on the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act becoming law this year.
“This revenue estimate uses the best available data to illustrate how dramatically taxpayers have been bilked by bad actors abusing a system our nation established to encourage charitable giving. The nearly $7 billion estimate represents the known amount of abuse since 2016. If even more abuse comes to light, that number will surely grow,” said Andrew Bowman, the Alliance’s president & CEO.
“While the IRS has made combatting abusive deals an enforcement priority, congressional action is urgently needed. We applaud Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a Republican, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a Democrat, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a Republican, and Rep. Mike Thompson of California, a Democrat, for introducing a bipartisan solution. Their proposed legislation will effectively shut down these egregious transactions and stop this drain on the U.S. treasury.
“The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act is fair, it is reasonable and, as we see from the revenue estimate, it is essential to safeguard taxpayers from these bad actors.”
Conservation easement donations, like other charitable donations, are not intended to be profit opportunities. The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act makes clear that point by eliminating the ability to profit from the donation of a conservation easement on land held for a short period of time.
As the revenue estimate reflects, the profiteering tied to abusive conservation easement tax shelters is significant. IRS data reveals that more than $20 billion in tax deductions have been claimed since 2010. In 2016 alone, $6 billion in unwarranted charitable deductions was claimed. For context, that’s more than six times the authorized annual funding level for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The revenue estimate comes at a time when multiple federal actors are working to halt abusive conservation easement tax shelters. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a Republican, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, announced earlier this year a probe that aims to shine a bright light on abusive transactions that disguise a profitable tax shelter as a charitable donation. That inquiry came just days after the Internal Revenue Service named such transactions on its “dirty dozen” list of tax scams to avoid. And in December, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint against promotors of an allegedly abusive conservation easement syndication tax scheme. That case is ongoing.
Multiple land conservation organizations have joined the Alliance in announcing their support of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, including Ducks Unlimited, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever, among others. Within the appraisal industry, the Appraisal Institute and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers have voiced strong support for the legislation.
About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than 200,000 volunteers and 4.6 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at http://www.landtrustalliance.org.
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