Major Push for Enhanced Incentive, High Hopes for AGO, Last Chance to File 990
One piece of feedback we heard at Rally is that Advocates need a clearer indication of those few alerts each year when everybody's participation is essential. This is one of those alerts! Why? Here's what Assistant Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland said at Rally:
"The sense of urgency that we should feel right now really ought to be profound, because things are teed up and we have a moment in time. When Congress comes back from the elections there's going to be a lame duck session and there is an opportunity for a number of the key things I just checked off to be dealt with legislatively."
Take Action: Call to Make Easement Incentive Permanent
The "lame duck" session of Congress, beginning November 15, could be a unique opportunity to make the enhanced easement incentive permanent -- but only if you call your Rep. and both Senators today!
Congress will be working on one, big, must-pass tax bill in the lame duck. We need help from every land trust in America to ensure that the enhanced easement incentive is part of that package!
As part of this push, we hope you'll talk to your senators at campaign events and ask board members and community leaders who can reach them personally to do so. But right now we hope you'll pick up the phone, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to speak with the tax staffers for your Rep and both Senators. Tell them:
- We need your help getting the enhanced tax deduction for conservation easements made permanent in the lame duck tax bill.
- This incentive has incredible bipartisan support from 41 Senators and 268 Reps, including majorities of both parties, from all 50 states! If anything happens on taxes in the lame duck, we ought to be able to get this done. (Be sure to thank them if they're a co-sponsor.)
- The incentive increased the pace of easement donations by a third -- to over a million acres a year. But it expired at the end of 2009 and we've lost a year of conservation. (Give local examples!)
- By allowing donors to deduct more of their income over a longer period of time, this cost-effective incentive makes conservation a real option for farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners who received little benefit from donating an easement under previous law.
- But the incentive only works if people know it will be there at the end of the lengthy and expensive process of donating an easement -- so we need to make it permanent!
- You can help at this critical moment by calling the leaders of the House Ways & Means/Senate Finance Committee and urging them to make this incentive a priority in the lame duck.
Ask for a commitment and follow up by e-mail, attaching fact sheets and letters of support. If estate tax is a major issue for landowners in your area, we suggest talking about both issues in the context of a three-part solution promoted in our estate tax fact sheet.
Also see our Frequently Asked Questions on the rules if Congress fails to act.
Our AGO Letter, Promising Words from Assistant Secretary Strickland
To sum up a summer of exciting input from land trusts around the country, the Alliance recently submitted formal comments on the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. With the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program as a model for the kinds of partnerships we envision, the letter outlines three main themes for the initiative:
- Create permanent tax incentives for conservation by private landowners,
- Provide full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Forest Legacy Program, and provide for more flexibility in their use, and;
- Commit significant new funding for the important easement programs in the Farm Bill, and reward applicants who are part of a strategic initiative.
We were thus thrilled to hear several of these themes echoed by Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland in his remarks (.mp3) at the closing plenary of Rally 2010. "Your priorities are our priorities," he said, and "I will make a commitment now that the tax incentive proposals that are so essential, will be very much a part of our recommendation. Full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be a part of our recommendations…and we're going to be looking very carefully at the holding of third party easements."
The America's Great Outdoors Report, due on November 15, will be a must-read for everyone in the land trust community and its release is well timed for a final push on the enhanced easement incentive. As soon as the report is published, we will link to it on our website at www.lta.org/greatoutdoors.
Today is the Last Chance for 321,000 Small Charities to File their First 990
After four years of reminders and second chances it all comes down to today -- the deadline for the IRS's "one-one time filing relief" for nonprofits that have failed to file a form 990-N or 990-EZ for three years in a row. The IRS has posted a list of 321,000 charities that will automatically lose their tax exempt status unless they file.
By now we're confident that Advocates subscribers have gotten the message, but what about the youth group that maintains your trails or the hunt club that helped you in the legislature? Please check the list and save charities in your community!
Thanks for helping!