Monday, August 12, 2019

Congressional and Academic Scrutiny of Conservation Easements Continues

We have previously blogged about congressional, DOJ, and IRS scrutiny of conservation easement donations, as well as academic coverage of this topic led by our contributing editor, Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah). This scrutiny shows no signs of abating, with the following developments just in the past couple of months:

  • Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden, Chair and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent three letters in June asking for further answers to their questions relating to syndicated conservation easements. Hat tip: Tax Analysts (Fred Stokeld) (subscription required).
  • That followed a June report (revised slightly in July) from the Congressional Research Service describing the concerns regarding abuse of conservation easement tax breaks.

With organizations that support appropriate tax breaks for legitimate conservation easements, such as the Land Trust Alliance, trying to avoid having Congress throw the baby out with the bath water, while DOJ and the IRS battle promoters and contributors of allegedly abusive conservation easement donations in the courts, it will be interesting to see how this issue ultimately shakes out both legislatively and in litigation.

Lloyd Mayer

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The 2019 bill will not raise $6.6B over several years. The folks seeking tax credit advantage will go elsewhere for shelter. There is a greater good benefit to society to conserve land. Fix criteria, reign in multiples ... but not so much that the program will go unused. There are to sides in this equation who need benefit for the program to deliver. Conserved land at a cost of tax credits is a good approach — if reasonably dealt with. 2.5x basis as a cap is dis-incentive.

Posted by: Todd Evans | Aug 12, 2019 4:07:27 PM

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