The bipartisan Senate Finance Committee determined that inflated property appraisals and “sham partnerships” often enabled tax cheats to claim more in deductions than lawfully allowed. Investigators unearthed emails detailing how crooked syndicators engineered easements to yield more lucrative tax breaks by overinflating land values. Such illegal activities have drawn IRS scrutiny over the last several years. In 2019, the IRS spotlighted syndicated conservation easements as a scheme taxpayers should avoid while at the same time estimating that such plots accounted for more than $20 billion in fraudulent federal tax deductions from 2010 to 2017. The Finance Committee report, which was released in September, calls for an increase in IRS enforcement as well as legislation to curtail dubious deals.
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