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Thompson and Kelly Introduce Legislation to Help Stop Abuse of Conservation Tax Incentive

Mar 28, 2019
Press Release
Bill supports legitimate use of open space through charitable donations

Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures and Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-16) announced the introduction of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act of 2019. This bill is designed to curb abuses of the conservation tax incentive program that allows taxpayers to take a charitable deduction when they donate lands for public use and conservation. In the four years since this tax incentive was approved by Congress, certain bad actors have engaged in transactions that abuse this important conservation tool in an attempt to create a profit for investors. This bill shuts down those abuses and ensures the integrity of the program for generations to come.

“Protecting public lands and incentivizing legitimate charitable donations of land for conservation has been a priority of mine since my days in the California State Senate. We cannot allow the abusive actions of a small minority to erode the integrity of this important program,” said Chairman Thompson. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, simple and bipartisan legislation to prevent such abuses from taking place and in turn protect the incentives that this program offers. We must continue working to ensure these lands can be preserved for generations to come.”

“When bad actors abuse provisions of the tax code and subvert Congressional intent, Congress must act. The tax incentive for conservation easements exists for good reason: to preserve open space for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans. Offering family forest owners, farmers and ranchers a tax benefit for donating a conservation easement on their land is good policy,” said Congressman Kelly. “Unfortunately, some have unfairly gamed the system to line their pockets at a cost to U.S. taxpayers. In 2015, I led the effort to make the enhanced federal tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent with Congressman Mike Thompson. It has become one of the most powerful conservation measures enacted by Congress in decades. Today, I introduced legislation with Congressman Thompson again to ensure that this tax incentive is properly used to preserve open spaces.

“Representative Thompson has a long track record of supporting land conservation efforts in California and I applaud his reintroduction of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act,” said Dave Koehler, Executive Director of Sonoma Land Trust. “Conservation easements and the tax incentives they offer farmers and ranchers is key for landowners to voluntarily protect natural resources here at home and throughout our nation.  It’s vital that this powerful tool remains protected from abuse.”

“We work with lots of landowners who genuinely want to protect their land and are willing to make the commitment to do that,” said Doug Parker, CEO of Land Trust of Napa County. “This legislation is essential to curb abuses and maintain the viability of successful easement programs that permanently protect significant natural and agricultural lands. Thank you, Mike, for working on this!”

Text of the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act of 2019 is attached to this email.


Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.  He is a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means where he chairs the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Rep. Thompson is Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is also Co-Chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus and a member of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition.