he House Land Conservation Caucus, which is co-chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (PA-16), met yesterday to discuss how pending changes to tax law could harm conservation efforts. Modifications to the estate tax and failure to extend certain provisions could reduce landowners' incentive to hold back development on their property.
With increased land values, many family farms potentially fall under the penalties of the federal estate tax. Heirs who must pay the tax many times elect to sell property to pay the bill. Fractured farmland is quickly developed, changing the character of communities and reducing open space. Congress is currently discussing long-term extension and reform of the estate tax that could have repercussions for conservation.
Member of the Caucus support estate tax reform that would allow families to either continue farming the property or donate their land for conservation purposes.
Members also discussed the pending expiration of tax incentives to donate land for conservation purposes. The qualified conservation tax deduction expires at the end of the year. The deduction allows landowners to deduct 50 percent of their adjusted gross income from the donation of a conservation easement. According to the non-profit Land Trust Alliance, this deduction has helped preserve an additional 267,000 acres per year.
The Caucus is organizing a letter to House Leadership and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee requesting an extension of the deduction. The Caucus supports Rep. Mike Thompson's (D-CA) H.R. 1831, a bill to make permanent the deduction and is cosponsored by 256 members.
The Land Conservation caucus is also co-chaired by Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA).
Rep. Pitts statement follows:
"Farm land and open spaces across our country are threatened by development. The bipartisan House Land Conservation Caucus is working together to ensure that our federal tax code protects these vulnerable lands. We're coming together, Democrats and Republicans, to protect these special places."