Syndicated Conservation Easements | National News Coverage and IRS Scrutiny Continues

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Cory D. Halliburton

Cory D. Halliburton



Cory Halliburton serves as general counsel and business adviser to a nationwide nonprofit / tax-exempt client base, as well as for multi-state professional service companies. He is a results-oriented attorney, with executive-level strategy and an understanding of the intersection of law and business judgment. With a practical upbringing, he pushes for process-driven results in internal governance, strategy and compliance with employment law, and complex or unique contracts and business relationships.

He dedicated the first ten years of his practice to mainly commercial litigation matters in West Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. During that experience, Mr. Halliburton transitioned his practice to a more general counsel role, with an emphasis on nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, advising those organizations through formation, dissolution, litigation, governance, leadership succession, employment law, contracts, intellectual property, tax exemption issues, policy creation, mergers and other. He has served as borrower’s counsel for tax-exempt bond and loan transactions near $100 million aggregate; some with complex pre-issue construction, debt payoff and other debt financing challenges.

Mr. Halliburton also serves as outside legal and business advisor for executive professionals in multi-state engineering firms, with a focus on drafting and counsel on significant service agreements, employment law matters, and protection of trade secrets.

On May 2, 2022, the Wall Street Journal published two detailed articles authored by Richard Rubin on the subject of syndicated conservation easements: Conservation Tax-Break Deals Keep Flowing Despite IRS Crackdown (WSJ 2022.05.02) and How a Georgia Pine Farm Became a Significant Tax Deduction (WJS 2022.05.02). In the first article, the author notes that IRS data released in 2020 showed syndicated easement deductions climbing from $6 billion in 2016 to $9.2 billion in 2018. And, the author quotes the head of the IRS’s business and international division as stating, “We don’t feel like we’ve seen the full impact of our [the IRS’s] efforts just yet. . . . We view it as abusive and problematic, and we will continue to throw significant enforcement tools” at abusive syndicated conservation easement tax shelters.

In the second article, the author focuses on a specific 434-acre pine-tree farm in Georgia and its dedication for conservation purposes pursuant to a syndicated easement arrangement. The author writes, “In 2020, some McGinnis family members sold off three-fifths of the property for $310,000. By the end of 2021, the . . . land had been sold again, this time to a business that raised $10.7 million from investors in a land-conservation deal. That transaction could yield its investors millions of dollars more in tax deductions—as well as scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service.” Rubin writes that billions of dollars of tax revenue are at stake in abusive syndicated conservation easement tax shelters.

As Freeman Law has reported, syndicated conservation easements are #1 on the IRS’s Dirty Dozen list for 2021, which notes: “In syndicated conservation easements promoters take a provision of tax law for conservation easements and twist it through using inflated appraisals of undeveloped land and partnerships. These abusive arrangements are designed to game the system and generate inflated and unwarranted tax deductions, often by using inflated appraisals of undeveloped land and partnerships devoid of a legitimate business purpose.”

Freeman Law has written extensively on the challenges of and scrutiny received by conservation easements—syndicated and otherwise. See, for example:

For other similar articles and resources, please visit Freeman Law’s Blog Site.

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.