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Support Easement Incentive Extension in the House, Thank President Obama, IRS Flexible on 990 Deadline

Advocates Alert: May 18, 2010

Two months after passing the Senate, the House of Representatives is finally on the verge of considering an extension of the enhanced easement incentive.  It's not a done deal yet, so we need your help today!

"Extenders" Bill Heading to the House Floor, Includes Easement Incentive

UPDATE: The "Extenders Bill" did pass the House on May 28, but it was too late for Senate action. See our May 28 alert for details...

Last week House and Senate negotiators reached a breakthrough on how to pay for H.R. 4213, the American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes, and Preventing Outsourcing Act.  That bill would extend the enhanced tax deduction for conservation easement donations through December 31, 2010 and make it retroactive to January 1st.

House leaders announced their intention to bring H.R. 4213 directly to the House floor on Wednesday, paving the way for final Senate passage and the President's signature before Memorial Day.  Unfortunately, some Representatives are now balking at the cost of this bill--about $220 billion.  The easement incentive is less than one tenth of one percent of that total, but we need help persuading your Representative that, one way or the other, the Congress needs to get this extension done:

  1. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  2. Ask for your Representative and then ask for the staff member who handles tax issues.
  3. Tell them about your organization and how the enhanced easement incentive helped you conserve special places in their district.  Then indicate how the lapse in the incentive resulted in confusion and halted landowners from moving forward on conservation donations.
  4. Urge your Rep. to get the "Extenders Bill," H.R. 4213, done.
  5. Check if your Rep. has co-sponsored H.R. 1831 (our bill to make the incentive permanent).  If so, be sure to thank them!  If not, ask them to co-sponsor by contacting Jonathan Birdsong in Rep. Mike Thompson's office at 5-3311.
  6. Invite your Rep. to visit a conserved property over the Memorial Day recess.  For ideas, examples and dates of other upcoming recesses, please click here.

H.R. 4213 also includes one-year extensions of two other provisions we've been following: the IRA Charitable Rollover, which allows certain taxpayers to make penalty-free IRA withdrawals for charitable donations, and the "S-Corp fix," which allows S-Corporation shareholders to deduct the fair market value of charitable donation, rather than just their basis in the corporation’s stock.

Thank President Obama for Launching America's Great Outdoors

As you've heard in recent alerts, the Obama Administration recently launched its America's Great Outdoors Initiative.  As part of this effort, organizations like yours have been invited develop conservation solutions for the 21st century. Our Americas Great Outdoors webpage features several ways to promote ideas that support your organization's work, but today we're asking your help to thank the  President for launching the initiative and to encourage him to make it bold enough to provide a lasting legacy for future generations.

The President wants to take the best ideas from communities that are working to save the places they love and that provide jobs to communities, and build on these successful local efforts.  He has invited every American to help shape this effort: local businesses, private land owners, public land users, city-dwellers, suburban families, and rural communities.

We believe that land trusts and their work can and should be at the heart of this initiative.  Saying thank you today is an important part of driving that message home.  We've drafted a template email you can send via the White House organizational contact form and to ago@ios.doi.gov.  Please customize it as much as possible!  The White House hates form letters, so it's even better if you just use this template to guide a letter you draft from scratch.

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of [ORGANIZATION], I want to thank you for launching the America's Great Outdoors Initiative: a 21st Century strategy for conservation in America.

As a homegrown network of [# OF MEMBERS] concerned citizens throughout [YOUR SERVICE AREA], [ORGANIZATION] is at the front lines of the effort to conserve the places that make America special.  Through innovative partnerships with private landowners and our partners in government, we're beginning to turn the tide against the unplanned development that has put a growing strain on our wildlife, our waters and our treasured landscapes.

We truly appreciate your decision to mention America's 1,600 local land trusts in your remarks launching this initiative.  It is our belief that the federal government can achieve far more with its limited resources by working through local partners like [ORGANIZATION] to engage private landowners in communities across America.

Take the example of… [Mention a recent success story and how the federal government did or could support your work.]

We're particularly hopeful this initiative will provide the resources organizations like mine need through programs like… [Mention 1 or 2 ideas you'd like to see enacted.]

[For additional ideas, please see our full talking points.]

Thank you, Mr. President, for making America's Great Outdoors a priority.  We need and are grateful for your leadership in launching a process our nation desperately needs to better protect the places that sustain us and define us as a people.  From our majestic parks to our collective backyards, America's Great Outdoors is a legacy we owe to our children and grandchildren.



IRS Will Work with Charities Who Missed May 17th 990-N Filing Deadline

As discussed in our May 5th Alert, we're extremely concerned about small land trusts and nonprofit partners who may not be aware of the 2006 requirement that all nonprofit organizations must file some version of form 990 each year.  We conducted personal outreach to all Alliance member land trusts in advance of the May 17th deadline for calendar year filers, but we remain worried that some land trusts could be among the quarter of all nonprofits that could lose their tax exempt status.

This morning IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman issued a statement, reversing earlier IRS statements, to "reassure these small organizations that the IRS will do what it can to help them avoid losing their tax-exempt status."  He promised "the IRS will be providing additional guidance in the near future on how it will help these organizations maintain their important tax-exempt status -- even if they missed the May 17 deadline."

He urged organizations that missed the May 17th deadline to go ahead and file anyway. Our May 5th alert has complete instructions, including links to sites where you can check if other organizations in your community have filed.

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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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