Complete America's Great Trails Act
STATEMENT OF P. DANIEL SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 1727, A BILL TO AMEND THE INTERNAL REVENUE CODE OF 1986 TO ALLOW A CREDIT AGAINST INCOME TAX FOR QUALIFIED CONSERVATION CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH INCLUDE NATIONAL SCENIC TRAILS.
MAY 22, 2019
Chairwoman Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 1727, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against income tax for qualified conservation contributions which include National Scenic Trails.
The Department understands the bill’s goal of acquiring the necessary lands or interests in land for national scenic trails, six of which are under the stewardship of the National Park Service. However, we defer to the Department of the Treasury for a position on this bill.
H.R. 1727 would allow a taxpayer who makes a National Scenic Trail conservation contribution to take a tax credit on his or her federal income taxes in an amount equal to the fair market value of the property donated. By allowing a tax credit, the taxpayer would receive the full monetary value of his or her property, just as if he or she had received a direct payment by purchase from the federal government. The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to study the efficacy of the tax credit in completing, extending, and increasing the number of National Scenic Trails as well as the feasibility of making the tax credit refundable and transferable. The Secretary of the Interior would be required to submit the report to Congress within four years of enactment of the bill.
The Treasury Department, which oversees the tax code, is in a better position to determine whether this proposal would be an effective way to encourage donations of land for trails and whether it represents sound tax policy. From our perspective, we question whether it makes sense, and whether it is fair, to allow a tax credit for donations of land for national scenic trails, while donations of land for other public purposes are eligible only for a tax deduction, which is worth far less to a donor with a significant tax liability than is a tax deduction. Just as there are many incomplete national scenic trails, there are also incomplete national historic trails and units of the National Park System.
Ms. Chairwoman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.