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Easement Incentive

On December 16, the Senate voted to extend dozens of expired tax incentives through the end of 2014. This includes the enhanced deduction for conservation easement donations.

The incentive raises the deduction a landowner can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of his or her income in any year to 50 percent. It allows qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income. And it extends the carry-forward period for a donor to take tax deductions for a voluntary conservation agreement from five to 15 years.

It is important to note that the incentive only applies to easements donated between 2006 and Dec. 31, 2014. The Land Trust Alliance will continue to work to make this enhanced deduction permanent in the next Congress, but as it stands it will expire at the end of this year.

See more information on the incentive here.

What's Next

The president is expected to sign the tax extenders package into law, but it will expire at the end of 2014. The Land Trust Alliance is committed to working with the land trust community, with its nonprofit partners and with the 114th Congress to make the incentive permanent.

H.R. 5806

Our champions in Congress are pushing hard to enact H.R. 5806, a charitable nonprofit tax legislation package. It would make permanent three charitable tax incentives, including the incentive for donations of conservation easements. This critical legislation would give nonprofits and foundations unprecedented ability to fulfill their missions, helping those in need and building stronger and more vibrant communities across America, and has our full support. Read the bill »

Do more. Act selflessly. Help others.

That’s the underlying message in a new, full-page Politico newspaper ad addressed to President Obama and congressional leaders. The ad publicly displays a refreshed version of the #GivingTuesday letter the Land Trust Alliance and other charitable nonprofits and foundations sent the president seeking enactment of the charities package. See the ad »

Dear Mr. President

On #GivingTuesday, five charitable nonprofits and foundations urged President Obama "to continue to work toward completion of a tax package that includes the provisions of the America Gives More Act" before year's end. The letter from the Land Trust Alliance and others came days after the administration indicated it would veto a tentative deal. The letter notes that should the tax package omit provisions of the America Gives More Act, "an historic opportunity to make a permanent investment in the non-profit sector and cement your legacy as a champion for the underserved will have been lost." Read the letter »

Priority Mail

Leahy Apples LetterIn partnership with Feeding America, the Land Trust Alliance delivered apples to each U.S. senator the week before Thanksgiving to highlight charitable tax incentives Congress has been asked to renew this year. In a letter packaged with the apples, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his colleagues were told incentives backed by the Alliance and Feeding America “are common-sense approaches that help feed Americans while safeguarding the special places that define our heritage, character and people.” Read the letter »

We, The Undersigned

The Land Trust Alliance was among six charitable nonprofits and foundations to send a letter today to Congressional leaders calling for the enactment of charitable provisions as part of any end-of-year tax legislation. Co-signed by the Council of Foundations, Independent Sector, Feeding America, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and National Council of Nonprofits, the letter noted that delay in enacting the provisions “serves no public or policy goal, but limits the ability of nonprofits to achieve their missions, whether through feeding people who are hungry, conserving land for future generations, or addressing myriad other needs in communities across America.” Read the letter »

Let’s Finish the Job

In a new, full-page Politico newspaper ad, the Land Trust Alliance thanked the 463 members of Congress who have co-sponsored or voted for legislation to make permanent the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations. The ad urges Congress to “make the conservation easement tax incentive permanent – for our lands, our waters and our ways of life.” See the ad »

The moment is now: Time is running out!

In a few short weeks land trusts across America can help make conservation history!

The Senate is reconvening right after the November 4 election and has only until December 31 to enact a permanent extension of the enhanced incentive for conservation easement donations. In fact, only during the post-election “lame duck” session of Congress can this happen. It has all come down to this moment.

Now is the final time for land trusts and their supporters to be heard on this critically important matter. Now is the time to state again to your elected leaders: Pass the conservation tax incentive! Make these provisions permanent! Take this step to save landscapes, livelihoods and wildlife.

The goal is to have the Senate leadership consider the House-passed bill that contains a permanent easement incentive and to pass it. While it is not “paid for” with budget savings or revenue (and never has been in previous extensions), it remains that the incentive was proposed in the President’s budget this year. We believe that passage of the charitable giving incentives (of which the conservation provision is one) enjoys overwhelming support and is in the political interests of all involved.

Resources:

Here's how you can help make the tax incentive permanent:

Meet with Your Senator

Schedule a meeting with your senator and his or her staff. Brief your board and donors on this historic opportunity, identify anyone with a connection to a senator and invite him or her to join you or reach out to the senator. If possible invite the senator and staff to see land you’ve preserved using the tax incentive and to meet the landowners that made this decision. Learn more »

Elevate the Incentive with Local Publicity

Make sure your senator prioritizes our issue when the Senate is back in session by getting local publicity about the importance of the tax incentive to your community. Personalize an op-ed template or use the editorial board memo urging the Senate to pass the America Gives More Act to place an op-ed in your local media. Consider partnering with another local charity on this effort. For help with an op-ed template and reaching out to local media, contact your regional representative. Hint: a food and farmland theme with a local food bank is a great Thanksgiving theme!

Ask Your Senators to Make a Floor Statement

Ask your senators to make a statement on the floor of the Senate in support of the tax incentives for charitable donations, including donations of conservation easements.

Tell Us How It Went

Over the summer and fall, land trust staff and volunteers across the country have stepped up to educate their senators about the importance of the tax incentives to their communities, and we want to make sure we leverage this activity to get the Senate to act now. Please let us know about any meetings, site visits, correspondence, media placements, phone calls or other outreach you've completed to senators and their staff by contacting your Alliance regional representative:

Northeast: Email Sean Robertson »
Midwest: Email Bryan David »
West: Email Bethany Erb »
Southeast: Email Andy McLeod »

How to Gain and Reaffirm Your Congressman's Support

Even if your senators are co-sponsors, we need to reaffirm their support for the easement incentive when it comes to the floor for a vote. Here are a few steps to doing so:

  1. Introduce your organization and tell them how important this tax incentive is to conservation work in your community.
  2. Tell them how the tax incentive helps family farmers, ranchers, and modest-income landowners protect their land. Share specific stories from your area!
  3. If they co-sponsored in the 112th Congress, be sure to thank them when asking for their support again.
  4. Remind them that conservation easements are a cost-effective, voluntary, private-sector alternative to government led conservation efforts and that this incentive makes the tax system fairer for modest-income farmers, ranchers and forest owners.
  5. If your congressmen are a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, be sure to ask for the staff member's email address and forward our letter from more than 30 hunting and fishing organizations.
  6. Ask for the staffer’s email address and offer to send background information on the easement incentive.
  7. Phone calls and in-person visits are best, but you can send a letter if you prefer. View advice and examples.

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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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Congress wrestles with tax breaks for open space

July 29, 2014 | Poughkeepsie Journal | NY

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House passes Gerlach conservation tax break bill, now up to Senate

July 18, 2014 | The Mercury News | Pottstown, PA

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The Time is Now for Congress to Act on Conservation

July 15, 2014 | Politico | Washington, D.C.

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