Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Senate Finance Committee Condemns Abusive Syndicated Transactions

The Senate Finance Committee has released a long-awaited report that condemns the abusive transactions by a handful of conservation easement syndicators and investors who primarily operate in the southeast portion of the US. The 187-report, released August 25, clearly calls on Congress to take action against the outrageous syndication of conservation easement tax benefits, and the Land Trust Alliance, the Montana Association of Land Trusts and its individual land trust members, and land trusts across the country applaud the report’s findings and also encourage Congress to take swift and certain action against the syndicators and their investors.

For over 40 years Montana land trusts and landowners have partnered to create conservation easements that produce farm and ranch conservation, wildlife habitat protection, open land protection, local economic stability and more, in part through the proper application of the charitable donation aspects within state law, federal law, and traditional  land conservation projects. No syndicated easements have been completed in Montana.

Syndicators generate easements for profit, abuse the charitable deduction provision, and example after example within the report document the abuse of the tax code to enrich syndicators and their investors.

MALT and the Alliance have worked with Montana Senator Steve Daines on S. 170, legislation pending in the Senate that would end the abusive syndicated transactions.

From the report: …in light of the continued use of these abusive transactions despite the issuance of IRS Notice 2017- 10, the Chairman and Ranking Member believe Congress, the IRS, and Department of the Treasury should take further action to preserve the integrity of the conservation-easement tax deduction.

The report concludes with this: If syndicated conservation-easement transactions continue to exist in the form they have over the past decade, they risk not only depriving the government of billions of dollars of revenue but also degrading the general understanding that our Nation’s tax laws apply equally to us all.