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FRPP Rule Published, IRS Rally Highlights, Tips for Nonprofit Employers

Advocates Alert: January 25, 2011

Even as Congress prepares to work on the 2012 Farm Bill, full implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill is just now coming into focus. We urge you to take a close look at the final rules for FRPP and GRP and let us know what you'd like to see changed.

Your Feedback Needed on FRPP Final Rule, GRP Manual

Yesterday, the Department of Agriculture published its final rule for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), which provides matching funds for land trusts and government entities to acquire conservation easements to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural use.  Funding was $150 million in FY 2010 and is slated to grow to $200 million by FY 2012, unless Congress implements budget cuts.

For the first time, this final rule includes details of a certification process that aims to streamline and extend cooperative agreements for land trusts and agencies that hold at least 25 agricultural easements, including at least five FRPP easements. Pease take a close look at the rule and provide comments in one of three ways:

  1. If you have comments on the certification process...there is an additional 30-day public comment period limited to section 1491.4(d) through (f). See the first page of the rule for instructions and please send a copy of your comments to Lynne Sherrod (lsherrod@lta.org).
  2. If you see points where clarification or particular interpretations could make the program more useable...we may be able to influence the manual that guides NRCS field staff in implementing the program. We may only have a few days to weigh in, so please send your concerns to lsherrod@lta.org today.
  3. If you want to see bigger changes in the program...please send those comments to Lynne as well. We want your ideas for improving the 2012 Farm Bill.

You may recall that the final rule for the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) was published in late November. The GRP Departmental Manual is now available, with details for cooperative agreements with land trusts discussed at length in chapter 9.

IRS Panelists at Rally 2010 Provide Advice to Land Trusts

At Rally 2010, three senior Internal Revenue Service officials answered questions on IRS scrutiny of conservation easements. They also discussed recent tax court cases and shared copies of a worksheet used by revenue agents reviewing conservation easements. View highlights from that session.

Of course, our most important advice for any conservation easement donor facing an audit is to simply call us. We're interested in the latest audit trends and have resources to share with land trusts, landowners and their advisors facing the intimidating process of an audit. Please contact Russ Shay at rshay@lta.org or 202-638-4725 x305.

Got Staff? Learn About the Small Employer Health Credit, New Withholding Tables

In addition to extending the easement incentive, the year-end tax bill brought changes to employee tax withholding.  If your organization handles payroll in-house, please be sure to read this IRS press release about the new withholding tables that should be in use no later than January 31.

The IRS is conducting a free webinar on February 2 at 2:00pm ET on the Small Employer Health Credit, which helps qualifying small business and nonprofit organizations with the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. Nonprofits without tax liability can claim the credit by retaining a portion of federal payroll taxes.

WEBINAR RESCHEDULED: It's now set for February 16th at 2:00pm. If you previously registered you do not need to register again.

Participants will learn more about:

  • Who qualifies
  • Eligibility rules
  • How to claim the credit
  • Calculating the credit
  • Resources available from the IRS

Click here to register for the webinar.

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Advocates Alerts

February 12: The House successfully voted 279-137, demonstrating a supermajority (67%) of support, on H.R. 644, a package of charitable incentives including the conservation tax incentive.Now we need your help in the Senate to secure co-sponsors! Sens. Heller and Stabenow have requested land trusts’ assistance in asking senators to cosponsor S. 330, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Learn more »

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