National Taxpayers Union Reinforces Value of Conservation Easements To Taxpayers, Environment

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today released a new report highlighting how the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) unjustified attacks on conservation easement partnerships have “trampled” on the rights of law-abiding taxpayers, undercutting a law with broad bipartisan support and jeopardizing critically important conservation efforts.

Authored by NTU President Pete Sepp, the report – “Shortsighted: How the IRS’s Campaign Against Conservation Easement Deductions Threatens Taxpayers and the Environment” – reinforces what the Partnership for Conservation has said all along:

  1. Congress has long supported conservation easement deductions and for good reason – they have contributed to 55 million acres of conserved land.
  2. Conservation partnerships and individuals have both played a critical role in that progress, helping increase conservation by 175 percent between 2005 and 2015.
  3. The IRS’s arbitrary targeting of conservation easement partnerships is unjustified and damaging to conservation. The IRS is knowingly discouraging landowners, appraisers and other facilitators from conserving land by threatening the levy of the highest penalties and imposing massive compliance burdens. This not only results in fewer acres of land being conserved by the private sector, it also results in fewer jobs.
  4. There are smart and actionable alternatives to further strengthen adherence to conservation easement law, alternatives the Partnership for Conservation has long championed such as higher educational standards for appraisers and a more rigorous appraisal substantiation process, improvements to existing tax disclosure documents, and an easement valuation advisory panel to help resolve audit disputes.

Urging Congress and the IRS to take a hard look at past practices and change course for the sake of today’s taxpayers and future generations, Sepp wrote:

“Tax administrators have trampled upon key protections of NTU-backed laws while pursuing their agenda … by imposing new opportunity costs on Americans participating in conservation partnerships the IRS has undermined the benefits to taxpayers across the country of allowing private citizens instead of the government to exercise stewardship over our precious lands. …

“The IRS’s toxic approach toward conservation easement deductions is emblematic of many tax administration maladies that have been increasingly fouling the environment for law-abiding taxpayers. Many areas of the law as well as Executive Branch practice must be reviewed to ensure that the ideals not only of this deduction but of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act and other laws are more closely respected in every day practice. It is time for the clean-up effort to begin. Just as conservation is a forward-looking gift for future generations, a government that respects checks and balances as well as its citizens’ rights can be.

To read the full report, visit ntu.org/shortsighted.



Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons