December 16,2020

Grassley, Wyden, Daines, Stabenow Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to End Abuse of Conservation Easements

Bill protects program that promotes conservation, stops scam artists from ripping off American taxpayers

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) along with Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) today reintroduced a bipartisan bill, the “Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act,” to stop the abuse of conservation easements, save taxpayers billions of dollars and promote conservation in the U.S.
“The conservation easement program is an important tool for protecting and preserving our environment. But bad-faith scammers have taken advantage of the program through abusive schemes at the expense of American taxpayer. I investigated the growing number of these scams, and it's clear that they won't stop without legislative action. I’m glad to join Sen. Daines once again in introducing legislation that would stop these scams from undermining the good work of farmers, ranchers and conservationists,” Grassley said.
“Abuse of syndicated conservation easements by some bad actors is one of the most egregious tax shelters out there. Our bill would ensure IRS has the tools to crack down on these transactions. IRS has been battling these scams for years, and our bipartisan Finance Committee report exposed their fraudulent nature in detail. There’s broad, bipartisan agreement on our bill, and Congress should pass it before we adjourn,” Wyden said.
“Our bipartisan bill will promote conservation in Montana, save taxpayers billions of dollars and stop scam artists from abusing a critical conservation program used across the country,” Daines said. “This will help protect Montana farmers and ranchers who want to conserve our lands, and hold individuals accountable who are looking to game the system and pad their own wallets. It's time to pass this commonsense bipartisan bill.”
“Our bill preserves the integrity of the conservation easement program which plays an important role in protecting family farms, open land, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities across Michigan and our country. Republicans and Democrats came together to end this abuse and save taxpayer money,” Stabenow said.
Despite increased enforcement from the IRS, recent IRS data shows the total amount of deductions claimed through these tax shelters increased from $6.8 billion in 2017 to $9.2 billion in 2018.
The Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which tracks an IRS Listing Notice published in December 2016, would generally disallow a charitable deduction if it exceeds 2.5 times (250 percent) of a partner’s original investment. The updated bill includes language concerning historic preservation deals, which are often more complicated and subject to greater oversight. The bill preserves this deduction for people with true charity and conservation in mind, including for family farms and ranches.
Last year, Grassley and Wyden opened an investigation into the abuse of syndicated conservation-easement transactions, which may have allowed a number of taxpayers to profit from gaming the tax code and deprived the federal government of billions of dollars in revenue. The full report can be found HERE.
Organizations that support this bipartisan legislation include: the Land Trust Alliance, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, The Appraisal Institute, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Partnership of Rangeland Trusts, Trust for Public Land, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.
Full text of the bill can be found HERE.