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Lawmakers seek to tackle abuse of charitable deductions for land preservation

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Capitol Hill lawmakers can adopt a measure to tackle taxpayer abuse by using a specific tax deduction for land preservation.

The bill, named the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act of 2021, was included in the House Democrats’ budget reconciliation package.

Conservation easements allow landowners who waive certain rights to use or develop land to obtain a charitable tax deduction to help offset the financial loss.

But the misuse of these deductions has occurred, whereby groups of investors get inflated property assessments and, as a result, get higher tax deductions.

The proposal would make it easier for regulators to crack down on the billions of dollars in unwarranted deductions that are now lying around for years in tax courts, said Lori Faeth, senior director of government relations at the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization. .

The IRS and the Department of Justice have worked to crack down on these abuses.

Congress also decided to prevent these actions in June, when the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., And in the Senate by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., And Debbie Stabenow, D- Michigan

The bill would protect valid uses of the deduction, such as farms or ranches.

“The package tackles bad actors who abuse the conservation easement program, one of the best tools at our disposal to promote land conservation, while saving taxpayers billions of dollars,” Thompson said of of the reconciliation measure at a recent hearing.

He also said it was “another bipartisan bill” to have been incorporated into the reconciliation proposal, which Democrats plan to pass in the Senate by simple majority.

The bill’s progress has crowned efforts to get legislation approved on this issue since at least 2017, Faeth said.

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Notably, support for the bill is both bipartisan and bicameral, she said. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Indicated that this would also be included in the Senate spending bill.

“We hope this will go ahead and be promulgated by the president,” Faeth said.