Conservation Community Joins Land Trust Alliance in Endorsing Legislation to Curb Syndication Abuse

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National Nonprofits Support Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act

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This bill is so important — and so sensible — that we’re quickly seeing support for it grow,

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 saluted land conservation nonprofits that are supporting the proposed federal Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act of 2017.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of California, a Democrat, and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a Republican, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act (H.R. 4459) would eliminate the ability of partnership investors to profit from the donation of a conservation easement on land held for a short period of time. The bill’s language makes clear that conservation easement donations, like other charitable donations, are not intended to be opportunities to generate a profit.

“This bill is so important — and so sensible — that we’re quickly seeing support for it grow,” said Andrew Bowman, the Alliance’s president. “At a time when bipartisan issues seem few and far between on Capitol Hill, it’s gratifying to see such support for the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.”

New support for H.R. 4459 materialized in a letter to Reps. Thompson and Kelly dated Dec. 13. Co-signers include The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, The Trust for Public Land and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Each organization formalized for the first time its support of H.R. 4459 in the letter.

“Collectively, our organizations are ready to stand with you in advocating for passage of this bill,” says the letter. “We and the millions of members we represent look forward to working with you to pass H.R. 4459, bolstering land conservation heroes and taxpayers across America.”

Bowman said the vast majority of conservation easements are truly charitable endeavors, but a few bad actors promote conservation easement donations as a way for investors to make a fast profit by gaining access to very large federal tax deductions. These transactions are essentially tax shelters. IRS data released earlier this year show that a sampling of these transactions enabled investors to claim, on average, deductions valued at nine times the amount of their original investment.

The Alliance has worked for years to counter this abuse, pressing the IRS to shut down these transactions and taking a number of actions to help its member land trusts identify and avoid these deals, all while ensuring honest philanthropy continues to be rewarded. But because these deals continue to be promoted, Reps. Thompson and Kelly introduced the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.

“Congress can and should act decisively on this matter,” Bowman said. “The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act is straightforward, narrowly drafted and needed. It makes clear that while charitable land conservation is done for many reasons, never should it be done for profit.

“And as consideration of this bill continues on Capitol Hill this month, we call on Congress to remain vigilant against any attempts and other legislation by the bad actors facilitating these deals to gain statutory protection. The success of our work relies on the public’s continued confidence in the integrity of tax incentives that encourage private landowners to voluntarily protect their land.

“It is time for all Americans who care about land conservation to stand with these champions and advocate aggressively for passage of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. Protect land conservation. Protect taxpayers. Put an end to abusive deals.”

For more information, visit http://www.landtrustalliance.org.

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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Joshua Lynsen
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