DEADLINE TO SIGN: March 12, 2019
THE SIGN ON LETTER WILL BE SENT TO:
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Kevin McCarthySpeaker Republican LeaderU.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of RepresentativesWashington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Charles E. SchumerMajority Leader Minority LeaderU.S. Senate U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510
SIGN ON LETTER TEXT:
Dear Congressional Leaders:
We, the undersigned ### organizations, represent the diverse membership of the Land Trust Alliance, a national nonprofit that collectively speaks for more than five million members working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation nationwide. We are both stewards of millions of acres of protected land and advocates for the federal conservation easement tax incentive that supports our work. As such, we write to express our concern about the documented abuse of that incentive through profiteering by a few bad actors. We seek your support in moving swiftly to halt this abuse by passing S. 170 and H.R. ###, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.
As background, Congress enacted in 2015 a permanent conservation easement tax incentive that provided U.S. property owners with increased opportunities to protect places important to their families and communities. The incentive has worked as intended and led to the permanent conservation of critical wildlife habitat, working lands, and other important open spaces. Yet, in the midst of this success, there are a few bad actors who are exploiting the incentive to turn a big profit. IRS data show just how egregious this abuse has become. According to data released in 2017, these individuals claimed more than $20 billion in charitable deductions since 2010. In 2016 alone, 248 entities claimed $6 billion in unwarranted deductions.
In light of this abuse, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2017-10 in December 2016 to designate syndicated conservation easement transactions as abusive tax shelters. This action characterized these tax shelters as among the most egregious abuses of U.S. tax law.
The 115th Congress followed suit with the introduction of H.R. 4459, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act by Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) and a companion bill, S. 2436 introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Steve Daines (R-MT).
Although the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act was not passed last year, the federal government did take a bold, necessary action. On December 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint against promoters of an allegedly abusive conservation easement syndication tax scheme. According to the complaint, the 96 transactions at issue resulted in over $2 billion in claimed federal tax deductions.
Despite these steps by the IRS, Treasury, Congress and DOJ, the promoters of these activities continue to pursue business as usual. We firmly believe the only way to halt these abusive transactions is passing the bicameral, bipartisan Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.
We applaud the leadership of Representatives ### and ### and Senators Steve Daines and Debbie Stabenow, for reintroducing the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act (H.R. ### and S. 170), which are narrowly targeted to curb abuse while making an important exception for family partnerships. The legislation also would ensure that tax incentives for land conservation remain available to genuine philanthropists who want to conserve the lands we need and love.
When our nation’s charitable giving laws are eroded, our respective organizations are unable to serve the public good. As such, we are committed to upholding support for voluntary charitable donations of land and ensuring H.R. ### and S. 170 are enacted into law. We urge you to pass the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act this year, which will protect taxpayers and halt this abuse.