Retroactive tax credits to be reviewed by working group
A bill that will take another stab at figuring out how to provide retroactive tax credits to potentially hundreds of Coloradans who lost those credits through the state’s troubled conservation easement program cleared the state Senate on May 2 on a 30-5 vote.
House Bill 1264 requires the Division of Conservation Easement within the Department of Regulatory Agencies to convene a working group that has among its charges finding a way to provide those retroactive tax credits.
The working group will hold its first meeting June 25 at 9 a.m. at the state Capitol. The group will be made up of eight people, two each appointed by the speaker of the House, Senate president, and the minority leaders of the House and Senate. The members should include taxpayers who have taken the tax credits, those who considered doing an easement but in the end decided against it, an appraiser and a conservation easement attorney.
The precise date for that first meeting is in the bill, courtesy of an amendment from Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling and in response to what he has said the director of the program didn’t do last year (although that’s disputed by that director, Mark Weston).
The program was under a sunset review in 2018, meaning it had to be reauthorized by the General Assembly to continue. That extension was postponed a year in order to require a working group, also under the division, to come up with recommendations for how to set up those retroactive tax credits and how to terminate easements when those tax credits have been denied.
But according to Sonnenberg, Weston didn’t do what the 2018 law required. Weston sent out a survey to 300 people, far short of the 800 who have had trouble with the program, and many who were denied tax credits said they never got the survey although pointing out the Department of Revenue had contact information for everyone. The survey instead went to people and organizations that had benefited from the program, including land trusts, they claimed.
A draft report from that 2018 process recommended the state pay back the tax credits, but the final report, some 900 pages, indicated the status quo was just fine and the program should continue as is.
Sonnenberg told this reporter he was not going to let that happen again. His amendment set that precise date so that the requirement could not be dodged again. And Sonnenberg plans to be at that first meeting; the group is to meet at least three times in the coming months.
The House agreed with the Senate amendments before the General Assembly adjourned Friday, and the bill heads to the governor.
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