COLT’s weekly land trust news
November 24th, 2015
Tuesday greetings everyone,
A number of important items to share first off:
Hopefully most of you saw this morning that the Land Trust Alliance just announced their new president: Andrew Bowman from the Doris Duke Charitable, and with Oregon some roots. Andrew will begin at the Alliance on the 10th of February.
The conversations and maneuverings in Congress around expired “tax extenders“, including the enhanced deduction for conservation easements, are starting to heat up as we approach the end of session. While most politicians anticipate at least a two year extension for the package of 50 or so tax extenders, some leaders in both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate are still hopeful that they can make a few tax extenders permanent, including the easement incentive. The most plausible two vehicles to make either scenario possible look to be either the Highway Trust Fund bill, or the omnibus appropriations bill for FY16.
On a related note, Independent Sector (which represents nonprofits nationwide) has a sign-on letter to support making permanent three key charitable tax incentives, including the easement incentive. Click here to read sign on to their letter. The deadline is December 1st.
The fight for LWCF reauthorization saw two hearings last week in Congress. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, held a hearing on the 18th for his “Protecting America’s Recreation and Conservation (PARC) Act“. Rep. Bishop’s bill would dramatically change LWCF, and many conservation groups oppose this approach. The following day, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked up and passed language to permanently reauthorize LWCF, part of S556: the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. We don’t know where either effort will end up, but there is hope that full LWCF reauthorization language may be included in the omnibus bill currently be negotiated. Stay tuned.
Moving on: At Rally this year in Sacramento, an IRS official dropped a bit of a bombshell in one of the sessions, seeming to indicate the IRS is now questioning the validity of easement deductions when an easement contains a general amendment clause. Needless to say, folks in the session let out a collective gasp at the implications of this position, as the vast majority of easement do (and should) contain such a clause. In response, the Alliance recently sent a letter to the IRS on the matter. They also have some key messages on how an amendment clause is not only a good practice for easement drafting, but also accords with previous IRS rulings for deductibility. For a more detailed explanation of this issue, this blog post is helpful.
Finally, as most of you mostly likely already know, the deadline for applications to NRCS’s Agriculture Land Easement program was extended until January 15th, 2016.
Wishing everyone a joyful, safe, and very pleasant Thanksgiving holiday.