The Peconic Land Trust is committed to keeping landowners, donors and our government partners up to date on the latest issues concerning land conservation legislation. Please check back often for updates.
For links to contact your Government officials, click here.
2011/2012 Updates & 2012 Priorities
- Gift and Estate Tax Legislation Increases Lifetime Gift to $5 Million: Sunsets December 31, 2012
- Federal Estate Tax
- New York State's Environmental Protection Fund and the Conservation Partnership Program
- America's Great Outdoor Initiative
- Environmental Protection Fund FY2010/2011
- Background on the Estate Tax
Updates as of February 15, 2013
The following is an update on the current legislative outlook adapted based on information provided by the Land Trust Alliance:
- Enhanced Easement Incentive: A renewal of this incentive was passed for 2012 (retroactively) and 2013 as part of the bill that averted the "fiscal cliff" on January 1st. This will help land trusts work with farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners to increase the pace of conservation. If you have questions regarding easement donations, including bargain sales, please contact Melanie Cirillo, Director of Conservation Planning at 631.283.3195 or MCirillo@PeconicLandTrust.org.
- Charitable Deduction: This remains largely intact, however, the current bill does bring back the "Peace Amendment," which gradually reduces the value of itemized deductions against income exceeding $250,000. It is expected that deductions will be on the chopping block again in March -- however, we have averted capping or cutting the charitable deduction, for now.
- Estate Tax Incentives: The Estate Tax retains its current $5 million unified credit, indexed for inflation, but the top rate rises to 40%. Also, geographic limitations on conservation incentives that lower estate taxes are permanently repealed. The Peconic Land Trust continues to pursue the deferral of estate taxes on land of conservation value with our local representatives. For more information, contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or JZaykowski@PeconicLandTrust.org.
- Farm Bill Easement Programs: The 2008 Farm Bill is extended through September 30, 2013. The USDA believes that the extension will allow new enrollment in the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) this year. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) had already been extended through 2014 under a previous appropriations bill (the FRPP was instrumental in the protection of the farmland at Sylvester Manor, see the August 8, 2012 press release). Nonetheless, Congress must now renegotiate the new Farm Bill, having lost $500 million from the funding "baseline" for easement programs over the next decade. The Land Trust Alliance will be working with land trusts across the country to engage the agricultural committees as this legislation is under consideration.
Thank you to everyone who reached out to your local representatives on behalf of the enhanced easement incentive and the charitable deduction. Your voices were heard in Washington. And, please continue to advocate, particularly on these two items as the budget debates in March will surely put these two pieces of legislation in jeopardy again. For more information and updates on conservation legislation, visit the Land Trust Alliance website. For links to your local representatives, see below.
As of January 1, 2011, the US Congress passed favorable gift and estate tax laws that could benefit landowners on the East End before the end of 2012. As you know, the Trust has been working for many years on estate tax and other transfer tax issues in order to stem the tide of land, particularly farmland, being lost due to the estate tax, or the anticipation of the tax. These new laws, which are only in effect until December 31, 2012, may be an opportunity for farmers and other landowners to pass land of conservation value to the next generation with the least amount of tax exposure.
Of most importance is the increase of exemptions to $5 million for Gifts. Beginning January 1, 2011, individuals can give up to $5 million (or $10 million per couple) free of gift tax, reduced by any portion of the exemption used in prior years. Gifts over $5 million will be subject to a 35% tax rate.
Beginning January 1, 2011, the estate tax is also now reinstated with a 35% rate, a $5 million exemption, and stepped-up basis for all assets included in the estate for estate tax purposes. However, for decedents dying in 2010 and before the date of enactment, the estate can elect to pay no estate tax in favor of the carryover basis rules, with an allocation of $1.3 million of basis step-up and an additional $3 million for assets passing to a spouse.
Also reinstated was the Generation Skipping Tax (GST), effective January 2010, with a $5 million exemption. However, the tax rate is 0% for 2010 transfers. The rate increased to 35% effective January 1, 2011. This historically low rate is an opportunity if you are interested in GST planning, specifically direct gifts or gifts in trust to grandchildren only.
If these can be applied to your estate, it is not too early to start planning -- you only have until December 31, 2012 before these laws potentially sunset. Please consult your legal and tax advisers to see how these could be applied to your specific situation. As always, the Trust does not provide legal advice, but we are available to speak with you and your advisers as needed. If you have any questions, please contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or email@example.com.
We continue to work with our local representatives, particularly Congressman Bishop, on a long term solution for the estate tax as it relates to land of conservation value. It is expected that Congressman Bishop will reintroduce his legislations (Farmland Preservation and Land Conservation Act) in the new Congress. Information on Congressman Bishop's legislation, as well as other legislative issues related to the Federal Estate Tax, can be found below.
This year, the New York Land Trust Alliance will have a joint lobby day with the Friends of New York's Environment, scheduled for Wednesday, March 6, 2013; the No Foods No Farms rally will be on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. For more details, contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195.
On January 22, Friends of New York's Environment issued the following statement with regard to Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget Proposal, which reads in part:
"After several challenging budgets, the Friends of New York's Environment is pleased that Governor Cuomo included a $153 million investment for the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in his 2013-14 Executive Budget, representing a $19 million increase over last year's budget level. While we look forward to learning more detials of how this will be achieved, this proposal is an encouraging start and represents a down payment on the commitment the Goveror made recently to strenthen the EPF. With his actions today, the Governor clearly understand the important role these programs play in environmental protection and economic prosperity, as well as disaster recovery and preparedness." To read the full statement, click here. To learn more about the EPF from the Friends' website, click here.
If you can't join us in Albany, we ask that you contact your local representatives and ask them to support funding for the EPF. Let them know how important the environment is to you and your family, and how the EPF supports industries that contribute billions to the state's economy, inlcuidng tourism, agriculture, forestry, and private investment in programs including recycling.
In April 2010, John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust, joined more than three dozen land trust leaders at the White House Conference for the America's Great Outdoors Initiative.
The conference kicked off with a welcome speech by President Barack Obama, who applauded the work of the land trust community: "... rising to meet these challenges is a task and an obligation, but it's one that government cannot and should not meet alone. There are roughly 1,600 privately run land trusts in this country that have protected over 10 million acres through voluntary efforts. . . . together we are conserving our working lands in a way that preserves the environment and protects local communities."
At the meeting, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum seeking a report on America's Great Outdoors from the Initiative by November 15th. The Initiative is led by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
In his speech to the conference, the President outlined four ways he believes the government, in concert with public and private entities such as land trusts, can move the conservation story forward:
First, we're going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country
Second, we're going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and grandchildren.
Third, we'll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the "let's move" initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.
And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across American have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.
The conference generated a lot of discussion among the approximately 500 participants from all over the country . . . and John as always turned the conversation toward what the Trust's believes to be a leading factor in the loss of working farms: estate taxes -- a critical issue that is at the forefront of making the President's second point a reality for our local farm families.
The Department of the Interior set up a great website for America's Great Outdoors where the public was invited to vote on ideas for conservation, and submit their own -- including stories about land conservation. Members of the land trust community took advantage of this opportunity, and shared their stories on issues important to our community, in particular around the issues of making permanent the tax incentives for conservation easements. This made what we all do and care about real to the folks in Washington. Thank you for your contributions.
In February 2011, the landmark America’s Great Outdoors Report was introduced by President Obama at a reception at the White House. At the introduction, the President gave a boost to voluntary conservation of private land by mentioning the work of the land trust community in his remarks and the incorporation of land trust initiatives in the final report, which includes proposals to extend the enhanced tax incentives for conservation easement donations beyond 2011, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and focus a portion of LWCF on innovative projects that support urban parks, community green spaces, and large-scale land conservation.
Mr. Obama said at the reception: “at a time when America’s open spaces are controlled by a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to private citizens, it’s clear that conservation in the 21st century is going to take more than what we can do here in Washington . . . Meeting the new test of environmental stewardship means finding the best ideas at the grassroots level, it means helping states, communities and nonprofits protect their own resources, and it means figuring out how the federal government can be a better partner in those efforts.”
The report drew inspiration from hundreds of land trust participants at America’s Great Outdoors listening sessions from around the country.
To learn more about America’s Great Outdoor initiative, and to read the report, visit the Department of Interiors website at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov.
Congressman Bishop introduced legislation in early March 2009, Farmland Preservation and Land Conservation Act of 2009 (HR 1328), which sought to exclude land of conservation value from estate tax consideration. Click here for a PDF of the legislation. The Trust has prepared two explantory documents: a white paper on the impact of Federal Estate Tax policy on farmland and natural lands and the Trust's recommendations for policy revision; and a white paper on the key points of HR 1328.
- In December, Trust President John v.H. Halsey wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to a recent Op-Ed (and subsequent letters) regarding the Estate Tax and Farmers. To read the letter, click here.
If you would like to learn more about these, or other public policy issues affecting land conservation in our communities, please contact Julie Zaykowski at 631.283.3195 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, the Land Trust Alliance's website provides additional information on public policy issues impacting land conservation.
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New York State Governor's Office: www.ny.gov/governor/contact/index.html
New York State Senate: www.senate.state.ny.us/
New York State Assembly: www.assembly.state.ny.us/
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U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov/
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