In 2000, Hickenlooper And His Partner Exchanged Land With The U.S. Forest Service Valued At Less Than $1,400 Per Acre.
“Hickenlooper’s payment to the IRS was an adjustment to the property valuation of conservation easements, which were on land that Hickenlooper and a partner acquired in 2000 through a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service, Denver’s KMGH-TV reported. About 590 acres in six counties were exchanged for 660 acres of forest land in Park County. The Forest Service valued the land it received from Hickenlooper and his partner at $1.07 million and the land provided to the two at $884,000, according to forest service records. The service paid the difference in cash. The land Hickenlooper and his partner got was appraised during the exchange at an average of less than $1,400 per acre, according to the appraisal.” (“Report: Hickenlooper settled with IRS,” The Associated Press, 9/14/10)
In 2002, Hickenlooper Donated 106 Acres Of Land To A Nonprofit And Hired An Appraiser Who Valued His Land At Over $6,000 Per Acre.
“The land Hickenlooper and his partner received was appraised during the swap at an average of less than $1,400 an acre, the forest service appraisal showed. Two years later, Hickenlooper took about 106 acres of the land to the Nature Conservancy, agreeing to a conservation easement that would ban any development on the land other than three small buildings or cabins, easement records show…For the easements, Hickenlooper took land the forest service valued at an average of $1,339 an acre and hired an appraiser who valued the land at more than $6,000 an acre, Hickenlooper confirmed to CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski.” (Arthur Kane and Tony Kovaleski, “HICKENLOOPER RETURNED TAX BREAKS TO IRS IRS QUESTIONED LAND EASEMENT THAT ALLOWED MAYOR TO WRITE-OFF $1.1 MILLION,” States News Service, 9/15/10)
Hickenlooper And His Appraiser, Mark Weston, Defended The Estimate Of The Land’s Value.
“State tax credits for easements have been scrutinized after some appraisers were accused of inflating land values. Landowners have sued, saying the Colorado Department of Revenue unfairly challenged tax credits and deductions they took after donating conservation easements. They have said appraisers who falsely inflated property values should be held responsible. The station said documents provided by Hickenlooper show that he received more than $1.1 million in federal tax write-offs for the easements. Hickenlooper defended counting the easements as charitable contributions and the property appraisal. He said that appraiser Mark Weston is now a member of the state’s Conservation Easement Oversight Commission. Weston told KMGH that his appraisal wasn’t inflated. ‘There have been abuses of this program,’ Weston said. ‘This is not one of them.’” (“Report: Hickenlooper settled with IRS,” The Associated Press, 9/14/10)
Over Three Years, Hickenlooper Received At Least $1.1 Million In Tax Write-Offs As A Result Of The Easements; A Total Of $10,377 Per Acre.
“Hickenlooper was able to write off 53 percent of the value of easement off his federal taxes based on the higher per acre valuation, according to public easement records. That year Hickenlooper’s tax return shows a $410,000 non-cash charitable write-off that his staff confirmed was from the easement. In 2003, 2004 and 2007, Hickenlooper put easements on the rest of his share of the property, records show. He received a total of more than $1.1 million in federal tax write-offs for the easements, according to interviews and tax returns Hickenlooper provided. Hickenlooper declined to say how much he received in state tax credits. But based on his federal write-offs, CALL7 Investigators’ conservative estimate is that Hickenlooper received in excess of $100,000 in state tax credits.” (Arthur Kane and Tony Kovaleski, “HICKENLOOPER RETURNED TAX BREAKS TO IRS IRS QUESTIONED LAND EASEMENT THAT ALLOWED MAYOR TO WRITE-OFF $1.1 MILLION,” States News Service, 9/15/10)
In September 2010, Hickenlooper Paid The IRS $52,486 After An Audit Questioned The Value Of The Easements He Received On His Land.
“More than 40 percent of John Hickenlooper’s $2.7 million in charitable contributions since 1985 originated with conservation easements on land he owns in Park County. The value of those easements was later questioned by the Internal Revenue Service, and Hickenlooper paid $52,486 rather than dispute the finding. Although the Denver mayor previously made his tax returns public as part of a request made of gubernatorial candidates, he has declined to reveal charities he has supported, saying he didn’t want them politicized and because he promised some of them anonymity. Hickenlooper never mentioned the easements, first reported by KMGH-Channel 7, which were donated to The Nature Conservancy. He owns 295 acres but cannot develop the land. However, a stipulation in the agreement permits him to build a house. Hickenlooper said he stands by his decision not to reveal the charities. ‘I think this proves the point that it can turn into political football,’ he said. ‘The Nature Conservancy doesn’t need to be dragged into this.’ Hickenlooper said this is his only property with conservation easements and no other charities he supports receive donations this way. (Karen Crummy, “IRS Flagged Tax Deal On Hick’s Land,” The Denver Post, 9/16/10)
Hickenlooper Was One Of Nearly One Hundred Easement Recipients Whose Land Values Were Challenged By The IRS.
“Conservation easements allow landowners to get tax deductions and earn tax credits they can sell for cash in exchange for restricting development. Those that donate or sell easements at less than fair-market value to a land trust receive charitable deductions on their federal tax returns. In Colorado, the donation creates a tax credit against the state income tax. In 2007, the state’s revenue department found abuses in the program. The state called in the Internal Revenue Service, which audited 290 tax returns that involved conservation easements, including Hickenlooper’s. The IRS nullified 50 easements. Hickenlooper, along with about 100 others whose easements remained in place, received a form letter questioning their land valuation. The IRS offered a settlement of $52,486, which Hickenlooper paid in 2008. Most people, including Hickenlooper, did not receive any specifics or documentation ‘for how or why the IRS had come to conclusion or settlement,’ according to the mayor and a May 2008 memo from the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.” (Karen Crummy, “IRS Flagged Tax Deal On Hick’s Land,” The Denver Post, 9/16/10)
In 2018, Hickenlooper’s Appointee Selected Mark Weston, His Previous Appraiser, To Lead The Colorado Division Of Conservation.
In 2018, Mark Weston Was Selected To Lead The Colorado Division Of Conservation. (Mark Weston, LinkedIn, Accessed 7/30/20)
- The Division Of Conservation Director Is Hired By The Colorado Executive Director Of The Department Of Regulatory Agencies. “The executive director of the department of regulatory agencies is authorized by this section to employ, subject to the provisions of the state personnel system laws of the state, a director of the division of conservation, referred to in this part 11 as the “division”, who in turn shall employ such deputies, clerks, and assistants as are necessary to discharge the duties imposed by this part 11.” (“2018 Colorado Revised Statutes,” Justia US Law, Accessed 7/30/20)
- The Executive Director Of The Department Of Regulatory Agencies Serves At The Pleasure Of The Governor. “There is hereby created a department of regulatory agencies, the head of which shall be the executive director of the department of regulatory agencies, which office is hereby created. The executive director shall be appointed by the governor, with the consent of the senate, and shall serve at the pleasure of the governor.” (“2018 Colorado Revised Statutes,” Justia US Law, Accessed 7/30/20)