Media Coverage

Supporters of IRS Easements Notice Criticize House Bill Provision

Tax Notes
By: Fred Stokeld
July 6, 2017

Drew Troyer of the Compatible Lands Foundation, speaking for the Partnership for Conservation, said that Notice 2017-10 unfairly labels many of the arrangements at issue as tax avoidance transactions when they actually help conserve land and reduce cost to government. “We’re pleased to see that Congress is taking a closer look at the way the IRS treats conservation easement donations,” he said. The Partnership for Conservation is willing to work with Congress and the IRS to address ongoing concerns about overvaluation of conservation easement donations, Troyer added.

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Conservation Easements a Weapon in Age of Trump

By: Dan Lee
May 6, 2017

Conservation easements are among the tools which private individuals may use to help protect our environment. These agreements enable conservation-minded property owners to protect their property in perpetuity from subdivisions, commercial development, surface mining and other activities that would have a negative environmental impact on the land.  As of October 2016, there were 130,758 conservation easements in the United States, covering a total of 24,717,062 acres. While there are many different varieties of conservation easements, they all essentially work as follows:  conservation-minded landowners who choose to do so (conservation easements are always voluntary) give up specified rights, such as the right to subdivide their property and turn it into a housing development, while retaining all other rights related to the use of their land.

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IRS Backs Away from Conservation Easement Crackdown 

Accounting Today
By: Michael Cohn
May 1, 2017

Proponents of conservation easements were concerned about the IRS crackdown. Last Thursday, the IRS issued a new notice informing them they would have more time to file the disclosures required by last December’s notice. A group that backs conservation easements hailed the new notice and sees more significance than a simple postponement of the due date. Randy Bampfield, co-chair of the Partnership for Conservation’s legal committee, said in a statement last Friday, “We are pleased to see the IRS responded to the many landowners, leaders of nonprofit land trusts and other conservation professionals who spoke out to explain the vital role that privately funded conservation easement donations play in advancing needed preservation efforts. Thanks to yesterday’s revisions, land trusts will not be considered material advisors to these charitable contributions, and landowners who donated conservation easements won a few extra months to complete the burdensome and duplicative paperwork requirements imposed by the IRS.”

His group would still like to see the IRS completely suspend last December’s notice. “However, the IRS needs to go further by suspending the underlying Notice,” Bampfield added. “It unfairly labels these already highly disclosed charitable contributions as ‘tax avoidance transactions.’ In reality, these easement donations allow ecologically valuable land to be conserved permanently and cost the government less than purchasing and managing the land with federal or state funds. Such private funding sources will be required to finance new conservation projects in an era of strained government coffers.”

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Reporting Deadline for 2016 Easement Participants Clarified 

Bloomberg BNA
By: Erin McManus
April 29, 2017

Randy Bampfield, co-chair of the Partnership for Conservation’s legal committee, said the April 27 notice was “a step in the right direction,” in an April 28 statement. The IRS should suspend the original notice, which is too broad in its scope, said Bampfield, a former senior counsel with the Small Business/Self-Employed Division in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

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The Conservation Easement Bonanza: Liberals like this Tax Provision because it Protects the Environment, Conservatives like it for the Tax Breaks, and Landholders and Investors are Reaping Financial Benefits 

Real Assets Adviser
By: Bryan Kelley
April 1, 2017

As our country experiences an ever-shrinking rural environment, donating a conservation easement is often seen as providing the ideal “win-win” tool for both landowners and conservationists. The popularity of donating conservation easements has grown exponentially over recent years. According to a recent Land Trust Alliance census, almost 17 million acres have been conserved across the country as a result of conservation easement donations and this reflects an increase in conserved acreage of more than 175 percent in the last 10 years.

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Land-Tax Deal Promoters Lobby Congress after IRS Crackdown: Group Urges Congress to Postpone Disclosure Deadline 

The Wall Street Journal
By: Richard Rubin and Brody Mullins
March 28, 2017

Frank Schuler, president of the Partnership for Conservation, said the Trump administration’s regulatory freeze didn’t cover this IRS notice – and should have. “This fell through the cracks and it’s fully in the spirit of everything else they’re looking at,” he said. Mr. Schuler argues that the deals bring private money to protect valuable land that might otherwise be developed. Randy Bampfield, an attorney with the Partnership for Conservation, said the notice doesn’t directly address property valuation, which is the real issue in overly aggressive deals.

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Local Landowners Protect Land from Development

The Newnan Times-Herald
By: Kandice Bell
March 21, 2017

In 2016, more than 2,300 acres of land in three Georgia counties were permanently protected by local landowners in partnership with the Oconee River Land Trust. One of the landowners, Chris Welton, stated, “Protecting the property along with the Oconee River Land Trust ensures that future generations of our family will also be able to benefit from the work that we have done and have the opportunity and enjoyment of utilizing the property in its more natural condition. We cannot rely solely on the state or federal governments to ensure that sufficient natural environments are preserved for future generations.”

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An Unwelcome Gift from the IRS on Conservation Easements

By: Ronald Levitt and David Wooldridge
January 9, 2017

The real threat of abuse in conservation easement deductions lies in overvaluation of the easement. The IRS admits this in Notice 2017-10. The IRS would be better served by rolling up its sleeves and addressing overvaluation by changing its own internal audit procedures to obtain more accurate results in a more efficient manner, rather than publishing a notice without the opportunity for stakeholder input on December 23, days before the end of the calendar year when many donations were to be completed. It is hoped that the next administration will take a hard look at this issue and come to the same conclusion that many stakeholders have: that Section 170(h) is working as intended, with rare exceptions. When the rare exception does surface, it is as a result of overvaluation of the property, and the recent IRS notice does nothing to address this underlying issue. It only places an undue burden on taxpayers making charitable donations.

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IRS Scrutinizes Land-Donation Syndicates Yielding Big Tax Breaks

Wall Street Journal
By: Richard Rubin
December 29, 2016

The IRS action last week is unfair, arbitrary and overly broad, and the next administration and Congress should review it, said Randy Bampfield, legal committee co-chair of Partnership for Conservation, an industry group formed in August as the IRS was scrutinizing syndicators. “Partnerships provide an important source of private funding to finance needed conservation projects, especially when the current owner is land-rich but cash-poor and might otherwise be forced to sell to a developer,” he said.

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IRS Flag on Some Land Conservation Deals Would Be ‘Chilling’

Bloomberg BNA
By: Colleen Murphy
November 23, 2016

Tax professionals fear that outcome after an Internal Revenue Service official said the agency is considering adding syndicated conservation easements to its catalog of “listed transactions.” The syndicated easements usually involve multiple individuals claiming a tax deduction, often through a partnership structure. Listing the transactions would be overly aggressive and might discourage all individuals—let alone groups—from making legitimate conservation arrangements, because they fear the agency’s wrath in audits, practitioners who represent holders of conservation easements and who specialize in charity law told Bloomberg BNA.

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Conserving Land and Preserving Your Legacy: When a Conservation Easement Should Be Considered

By: Steven Abernathy
November 18, 2016

Legally binding obligations that limit a property’s future use, conservation easements often protect biological, ecological, scenic, and historical resources. In addition they can serve as public parks. The way it works is a conservation easement limits commercial and industrial use, restricts or prohibits development and curbs other activities on the property. At present the National Conservation Easement Database of the United States lists an estimated 40 million acres under conservation easements—nearly the size of Washington State. Last year Congress increased the conservation easements deduction benefit for landowners of private lands from 30% to 50%.

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