Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Senate Finance Committee Begins Investigation of Abusive Conservation Easement Appraisals (4/2/19)

The Senate Finance Committee Chair and Ranking Member announced here that they have started
an investigation into the potential abuse of syndicated conservation easement transactions, which may have allowed some taxpayers to profit from gaming the tax code and deprived the federal government of billions of dollars in revenue. For several years now, the IRS has been investigating these transactions. They appear to involve promoters selling interests in tracts of land to taxpayers looking for large tax deductions. In such an arrangement, the taxpayers then get inflated appraisals of those tracts of land and grant conservation easements on that land. The resulting inflated charitable deductions are then split among the taxpayers.
The SFC sent letters to 14 "individuals who appear to be associated with these investor groups that might have unfairly profited from conservation easements."  The names are listed on the press release.

I have written on conservation easement bullshit tax shelters:
  • Peter Reilly on Conservation Easement Donations as Bullshit Tax Shelters (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 7/24/17), here.
  • IRS Designates Syndications Exploiting Improper Valuations for Conservation Easement Deductions (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 1/2/17), here.
Peter Reilly has a very good update on this development:  Peter J. Reilly, Grassley Wyden Take On Sketchy Conservation Tax Shelters (Forbes 3/28/19), here.

The type of investigation appears somewhat like the investigations by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, see here.  Criminal investigations sometimes are in process when such investigations occur or, as I think occurred in the KPMG situation, arose from the commotion of the investigation.

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