Senate Finance Committee Releases Conservation Easement Data

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Jason B. Freeman

Jason B. Freeman

Managing Member


Mr. Freeman is the founding member of Freeman Law, PLLC. He is a dual-credentialed attorney-CPA, author, law professor, and trial attorney.

Mr. Freeman has been named by Chambers & Partners as among the leading tax and litigation attorneys in the United States and to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers in America list. He is a former recipient of the American Bar Association’s “On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers” in America award. Mr. Freeman was named the “Leading Tax Controversy Litigation Attorney of the Year” for the State of Texas for 2019 and 2020 by AI.

Mr. Freeman has been recognized multiple times by D Magazine, a D Magazine Partner service, as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas, and as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service. He has previously been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Top 100 Up-And-Coming Attorney in Texas.

Mr. Freeman currently serves as the chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA). He is a former chairman of the Dallas Society of CPAs (TXCPA-Dallas). Mr. Freeman also served multiple terms as the President of the North Texas chapter of the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs. He has been previously recognized as the Young CPA of the Year in the State of Texas (an award given to only one CPA in the state of Texas under 40).

In a previous Insight, I discussed the Senate Finance Committee’s report on conservation easements. On September 21, 2020, the Senate Finance Committee released additional statistics on conservation easements, recognizing a “significant increase in syndicated conservation easement transactions.”  This Insight reproduces the Senate Finance Committee’s September 21, 2020, media release below:

WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released IRS data showing a significant increase in syndicated conservation easement transactions.

Last month, the Finance Committee released a bipartisan report on syndicated conservation easement transactions.

Of note, the new IRS data show that despite IRS designating them as potentially-abusive tax shelter transactions, promoters of syndicated conservation easements have continued to push the schemes. Between 2017 and 2018 the number of individual participants increased from 14,000 to 16,900, with many participating in multiple deals.  And the total amount of deductions claimed through these tax shelters increased from $6.8 billion in 2017 to $9.2 billion in 2018.

Notably, it is a small number of unscrupulous actors who make these deals possible. In its latest figures, IRS identified only 34 appraisers who provided valuations on some 296 syndicated conservation easement transactions.

“The numbers provided by IRS show that dubious syndicated conservation easement tax shelters are a growing problem. Using sham partnerships to essentially buy tax breaks like this undermines the fairness of the American tax system, deprives the Treasury of revenue and leaves all other taxpayers out to dry. Our bipartisan report detailed this exact problem and concluded that every part of the federal government needs to take further action to crack down on these schemes,” Grassley said.

“Our bipartisan report detailed serious and persistent abuse of the syndicated conservation easement program. This new IRS data, which shows a significant increase in these transactions in recent years, reinforces our findings,” said Wyden. “Of particular concern, transactions continued to increase even after the IRS flagged them as potential tax shelters. Cracking down on abusive syndicated conservation easements requires ensuring IRS has the resources and legal tools to do its job, and I’m eager to work in a bipartisan way to get that done.”


Conservation Easement Defense

In recent years, the IRS has prioritized tax enforcement efforts against syndicated conservation easements that it believes to be abusive. Freeman Law’s tax controversy practice regularly represents clients in conservation easement tax disputes. Schedule a consultation or call (214) 984-3000 to discuss your conservation easement concerns or questions.