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Friends on the Tax Task Force, Estate Tax Incentives Included, LWCF Update

Advocates Alert: December 3, 2010

12/7/10 Update: On Monday, President Obama anounced a deal with Republicans on a tax cut "framework."  This greatly increases the chances for at least a two year extension of the incentive, but many details (particularly on estate tax) remain unresolved, and your calls can still help. Look for an Advocates alert this afternoon.

Why are we excited?  Thanks to land trusts in Michigan, Montana and Maryland, we have three strong supporters on the tax legislation task force convened by President Obama!

Are you doing your part? There's still time...

Three Easement Incentive Champions on Tax Bill Task Force

After Tuesday's meeting with Congressional leaders, President Obama called for a six-member task force to hammer out an agreement on tax legislation.  While the House and Senate are holding a series of test votes on taxes, all eyes remain focused on this task force, where talks are described as "ongoing and productive."  And thanks to the hard work of land trusts in their districts, we have friends in the room!

Montana Land Reliance and other Montana land trusts are in constant contact with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who helped to create the enhanced incentive and introduced S. 812 to make it permanent.  Incoming House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced a House bill to make the incentive permanent in the previous Congress and, in a recent meeting with Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and Leelanau Conservancy, he promised to push for it in the lame duck session.  Maryland Environmental Trust board members and other local land trusts have also persuaded Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to champion the incentive with House leadership.

None of this guarantees success.  Task force members are playing a delicate game of the possible, with many competing priorities.  That said, the connections built by locally important land trusts give us a huge leg up in this process.

There's still time to do your part! Personal calls from your Senator or Representative to these task force members could greatly help to elevate the enhanced easement incentive on their list of priorities. View talking points and fact sheets you can email to staff.  The other task force members are Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OMB Chief Jacob Lew.

Estate Tax Conservation Incentives in Senate Tax Proposals

We're thrilled to report that both of the estate tax conservation incentives we've been promoting are included in the Senate tax legislation slated for votes tomorrow!  Before you get too excited, please understand that nobody expects Senator Reid's S.Amdt.4727 or Senator Schumer's S.Amdt.4728 to pass in their current forms.  But these bills are important negotiating positions in the task force debates, and the fact that Finance Committee leaders included our estate tax provisions for the first time is a huge step forward!

The bills include:

  • A permanent increase in the 2031(c) exclusion for land protected by a conservation easement from 40% to 50% and from $500,000 to $5 million (H.R. 3050/S. 3640)
  • A permanent deferral of estate taxes on family farm, ranch and forest land, until those lands are taken out of production or sold out of the family (H.R. 5475/S. 3664)
  • A two-year (2010 & 2011) extension of the enhanced easement incentive (yes, we're disappointed it’s not permanent and we need your help to change this!)
  • Two-year extensions of the S Corporation donation incentive and IRA Charitable Rollover provisions

There will be a great deal of political posturing and brinksmanship in the days ahead, but with your help, there's a real chance Congress will provide significant conservation tax incentives this year.  A deal could come as soon as next week and we will keep you posted. Thanks for your help getting us this far!

Dedicated Land and Water Conservation Fund Still in Play

Even as we focus on tax incentives, the Land Trust Alliance strongly supports the broad coalition effort now underway to secure full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  A full funding bill passed the House in July and the next two weeks are our last chance to get it through the Senate in this Congress.

In recent weeks, the stand-alone LWCF bill, S. 2747, has gained 7 new co-sponsors for a total of 25.  Additional co-sponsors and personal calls from your Senators to Senate leadership will help demonstrate the broad public support for dedicated LWCF funding.  For state-specific fact sheets and additional resources for taking action, please visit: www.lwcfcoalition.org.

Thanks for helping!


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Advocates Alerts

November 6: With only eight weeks remaining before Congress adjourns (of which Congress will be in Washington for only four), there is limited time to act. Ask your senators to urge their party’s leadership to include the charitable package in any year-end tax legislation. We’ve been meeting with Senate offices and have been encouraged by their willingness to consider making some tax extenders permanent. This puts us in a good position, but we need you to reinforce that special places are being lost because the incentive has expired. Learn more »

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