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New Listening Session Details, Payroll Tax Audits, Incentive Update

Advocates Alert: June 22, 2010

New Details for America's Great Outdoors in Annapolis, Charleston, Seattle & Los Angeles

When President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative and mentioned the conservation work of America's 1,600 land trusts, it was the first time an American president has mentioned land trusts in a speech.  Thus we have an invitation to take a leading role in this process, but many other interests are making a case for their priorities, so it's important for land trusts and landowners to advocate for private conservation at all listening sessions and online.

Official invitations have now gone out for the next four sessions.  Registration deadlines are within the next week, so please register and help us spread the word today!

These are the only confirmed dates at this point.  We'll post any additional details and new dates at www.lta.org/greatoutdoors as soon as they're available; please check regularly, and email us at policy@lta.org if you hear about an event near you.

We've also posted a new version of our Land Trust Talking Points, re-arranged to match the questions being asked in the listening sessions.  Even if you're unable to attend a listening session, they'll be helpful in providing feedback via the online tools listed on our site.

IRS Audits of Charities to Focus on Employment Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced plans to audit roughly 500 tax exempt organizations, focusing on payroll taxes. Nanette Downing, acting director of exempt organization examinations, recently emphasized that, "exempt organizations have the same obligation as other businesses to properly classify workers and report and pay employment taxes."

That means land trusts should take special care to ensure they're properly withholding and paying employment taxes for anybody who meets the IRS definition of an "employee."  Some past audits have faulted land trusts for improperly classifying employees as independent contractors.  Click here for the full article.  You may also find these IRS webpages helpful:

Employment taxes may be an unwelcome burden, but there is some good news on that front!  As reported in our March 30 ADVOCATES, new laws may allow your organization to pay less if you offer health insurance or hire workers who had been unemployed.  Click here for details.

Easement Incentive Extension in Limbo as Senate Negotiations Continue

June 24 UPDATE: A new Senate vote to end debate on the "extenders" package just failed on a 57-41 vote (60 required).  We will monitor press statements in the aftermath of this vote, but this appears to be a significant setback. Stay tuned to our Land Trust ADVOCATES alerts.

A one-year extension of the enhanced easement incentive is included in H.R. 4213, a huge package of tax "extenders" and other provisions that have been hotly debated over the past six months.  Last Thursday, a Senate motion fell four votes short of the 60 required to end debate and proceed to a vote, but negotiations continue and today Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, "I'm hopeful and confident we can move forward on this legislation."

So far, the enhanced easement incentive has been included in all versions of the bill.  The controversy relates to how the bill is paid for and other provisions such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid assistance to states that are considered "emergency spending" and are not offset.  We will let you know as soon as the Senate takes action.

The upcoming Independence Day and August recesses are great opportunities to invite your Senators and Representatives to visit one of your conserved properties and hear how this lapse in the incentive has slowed the pace of conservation.  Introducing them to landowners struggling with this uncertainty is another great way to illustrate the urgency of making the incentive permanent this year!  Now is the time to schedule, so click here for templates and advice on hosting a site visit.

Thanks for helping!

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Daily Tax Report Article on employment tax audits

IRS EO to Focus on Employment Tax, Charitable Spending Audits Through FY 2010

Posted June 17, 2010, 6:04 P.M. ET

Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations personnel will be focusing on two examination projects for the rest of fiscal year 2010--one on employment tax, the other on charitable spending, Nanette Downing, acting director of Exempt Organizations examinations, said June 17.

"Because exempt organizations have the same obligation as other businesses to properly classify workers and report and pay employment taxes EO will be participating with other IRS operating divisions in this National Research Project," she told an American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Not for Profit conference.

Approximately 500 audits of charities and other exempts will result from an agencywide study of employment tax issues aimed at finding out whether businesses and exempt organizations are properly complying with employment tax law and reporting requirements, Downing said.

For the next three years, the EO portion of the project will involve examining randomly selected returns from exempt organizations. Specific areas of study will be worker classification, fringe benefits, officer compensation, employee expense reimbursement, and non-filers, she said. EO agents have received the same training and will be using the same capture tools as other agents in the IRS. Many of the exams have already begun, she said.

The charitable spending initiative will explore the sources and uses of charitable funds and their relationship to the accomplishment of charitable purposes, Downing said.

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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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