The IRS Must Stop Harassing Taxpayers Over the Conservation Easement Deduction

Americans for Tax Reform
Alex Hendrie
April 8, 2019

In 1976, Congress created a charitable deduction under section 170(h) of the tax code to encourage taxpayers to conserve their property for future generations. Congress has consistently reaffirmed this provision, known as the conservation easement deduction, in legislation over the past several decades.

In recent years, the IRS has targeted taxpayers that claim the deduction. In a clear violation of Congressional intent, the agency has sought to make it more difficult for taxpayers to claim the deduction and has taken taxpayers to court over their use of this deduction.

While the IRS has a responsibility to go after bad actors, it is unacceptable for the agency to harass law-abiding taxpayers for claiming a deduction provided by Congress. Unfortunately, that is exactly what appears to be occurring.

Moving forward, policymakers should ensure that the deduction is being properly administered by the IRS and is being used to expand private conservation as intended by Congress. Congress should debate and consider reforms through regular order to ensure that the IRS is not subjecting taxpayers that are properly taking the deduction to undue scrutiny.

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