Land Trust Alliance Partners with Appraisal Institute to Advance Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act

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‘Congress Must Pass This Important Legislation, This Year’

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We are proud to stand with the Appraisal Institute against fraud.

The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America, announced today a new partnership to help end abusive conservation easement tax shelters.

The Alliance is now working with the Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers, to advance the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. One of the first results of this partnership was the Appraisal Institute co-signing a letter urging congressional leaders to swiftly enact the pending bipartisan, bicameral legislation. That letter is available here.

“We ask that this important legislation be enacted into law before the conclusion of the 115th Congress to close this apparent loophole and maintain the integrity of conservation easement donations,” said Appraisal Institute President James L. Murrett. “Congress must pass this important legislation, this year.”

Introduced initially in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Thompson of California, a Democrat, and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a Republican, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act 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. A companion bill in the U.S. Senate was introduced by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a Republican, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a Democrat. Both bills make clear that conservation easement donations, like other charitable donations, are not intended to be profit opportunities.

The profiteering tied to abusive conservation easement tax shelters is significant. According to IRS data, approximately $20 billion in tax deductions have been claimed since 2010. In 2016 alone, $6 billion in unwarranted charitable deductions was claimed.

Multiple land conservation organizations previously 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. The Appraisal Institute is the first appraisal industry organization to voice such strong support for the legislation.

“We are proud to stand with the Appraisal Institute against fraud and share its concern that a few bad actors risk tarnishing the reputations of honest donors, appraisers and conservationists,” said Andrew Bowman, the Alliance’s president. “We welcome the Appraisal Institute’s work to protect the public trust and help pass this important legislation.”

Murrett said that in addition to co-signing the new letter, the Appraisal Institute plans to alert its more than 18,000 professionals to the ongoing threat that abusive conservation easement tax shelters pose; continue to educate appraisers, land trusts and other stakeholders on the valuation of conservation easements; and lobby on Capitol Hill for passage of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.

The new letter co-signed by the Appraisal Institute and others comes at the same time another letter is reaching Capitol Hill. This second letter, signed by 53 land trust presidents and executive directors, comes from the Land Trust Alliance Leadership Council. This group of leading local and regional land trusts from across the country also urges Congress to pass the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act. That letter is available here.

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.

About the Appraisal Institute

The Appraisal Institute is a global professional association of real estate appraisers, with more than 18,000 professionals in nearly 50 countries throughout the world. Its mission is to advance professionalism and ethics, global standards, methodologies, and practices through the professional development of property economics worldwide. Organized in 1932, the Appraisal Institute advocates equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in the appraisal profession and conducts its activities in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws. Individuals of the Appraisal Institute benefit from an array of professional education and advocacy programs, and may hold the prestigious MAI, SRPA, SRA, AI-GRS and AI-RRS designations. Learn more at http://www.appraisalinstitute.org.

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