Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

It’s Time to End Abusive Syndicated Easement Transactions

      Montana Senator Steve Daines and key Members of Congress have introduced new federal legislation designed to stop the abusive syndication of conservation easement tax benefits. 

     S 2256, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, was introduced by Daines and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in the Senate. An identical bill, HR 4164, was introduced in the House by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA), which makes the effort to stop the abusive syndicated transactions both bipartisan and bicameral.

      “Montana farmers and ranchers work hard to conserve our lands while scam artists are taking advantage of the conservation easement program,” Daines said. “This type of abuse cannot continue. My bipartisan bill will go after bad actors and help save taxpayers billions of dollars while promoting conservation across the nation.”

     MALT and its members are grateful for Senator Daines’ leadership on this issue.

     The 2021 version of the Integrity Act is a slightly new and improved version from previous years. The Integrity Act is also the Land Trust Alliance’s top federal policy priority. The Alliance’s Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act Toolkit contains a wealth of information about the scope of the syndication problem—a $36 billion scope between 2010 and 2018—tips for advocacy, and informational resources.

     The Integrity Act came close to passing in late 2020 during a lame duck session of Congress, but ultimately was not attached to any of the COVID or legislative stimulus packages. It is clear that syndicators will not stop until they are stopped, and it appears it will require IRS enforcement and congressional legislation to stop them.

Sen. Steve Daines