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  • 01/16/2018 4:52 PM | Ellen Chapman

    President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law December 22, 2017. This law overhauls the tax code for the first time since 1986. The Act introduces many changes that will affect ACRA member firms, their owners, and their employees. This summary is not legal or tax advice. ACRA encourages all of its members to consult a tax professional or tax lawyer who knows your specific and unique circumstances before making any business decisions.

    Several changes warrant special attention:

    1. The corporate tax rate was lowered from 35% to 21%.

    2. A new deduction for pass-through income was created through 2025. Many ACRA firms are pass-throughs, such as S-corporations, sole proprietorships, and LLCs. The new law allows people who receive pass-through income to deduct 20% of qualified business income. This deduction is phased out for owners of personal service firms for income greater than $315,000 for joint filers. Personal service firms are businesses “where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees [or owners].” It is unclear whether CRM firms fall under the definition of “personal service firms,” and we will await further guidance from the IRS. If CRM firms are determined to be personal service firms, then the deduction is fully phased out for income greater than $415,000 for joint filers or $207,500 for single filers. Bottom Line: Owners of ACRA firms who are joint filers and have less than $315,000 in income will be able to take the deduction; it’s unclear whether the deduction will be phased out for owners making more than that amount.

    3. The estate tax only applies to estates of $11.2 million or more.

    4. Deductibility of certain business expenses has changed. No deduction is allowed for (1) an activity generally considered to be entertainment, amusement or recreation, (2) membership dues with respect to any club organized for business, pleasure, recreation or other social purposes, or (3) a facility or portion thereof used in connection with items (1) and (2). Also disallows a deduction for expenses associated with providing any qualified transportation fringe to the taxpayer’s employees. Employers may still deduct 50% of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business (e.g., meals consumed by employees on work travel). (This means ACRA dues are no longer tax deductible.)

    5. Consider Buying Equipment: The new bill allows businesses to deduct 100% of the cost of tangible business assets (except structures) acquired after September 27, 2017 and through 2022. This means you can immediately deduct the costs of new equipment rather than having to depreciate the assets over time. The cap on these deductions is increased to $1,000,000. The Section 179 deductions are also expanded.

    6. Business owners can write off more of the cost of purchasing a car—up to $47,500 over five years from $15,000.

    7. The net operating loss deduction is limited.

    8. Employer provided education benefits were unchanged. The House bill would have repealed it, but the final version allows employers to provide tax-free employee fringe benefits up to $5,250 per year for an employee’s education.

    9. Tax preparation services are no longer tax deductible.

    10. Employees may no longer deduct moving expenses.

    11. The IRS mileage rate is up to 54.5 cents per mile for 2018.


  • 05/02/2017 3:01 PM | Ellen Chapman

    This week ACRA submitted comments to the National Park Service, which was soliciting suggestions for revisions and proposed updates to the National Register Bulletin How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations (1999). ACRA welcomes the opportunity to work with the National Park Service to develop an update to this guidance, and will notify ACRA members as the process moves forward.

    You can read the final ACRA comments here.

  • 04/21/2017 10:40 AM | Ellen Chapman

    Many historic preservation organizations mistakenly believe their non-profit status precludes them from engaging in advocacy and lobbying activities that would benefit historic preservation.

    In an upcoming Coalition for American Heritage webinar, we’ll dispel the common myth that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are not allowed to lobby. Armed with specific examples for heritage organizations, we’ll walk through how your organization can engage in advocacy and lobbying activities without jeopardizing its IRS status. Learn how your organization can provide much-needed policy expertise to lawmakers, spread the word among your supporters about legislation that will affect programs important to them, and leverage your membership to make a difference on issues that matter. You’ll leave with concrete next steps your organization can take to stand up for heritage without raising eyebrows at the IRS. Register Today.

  • 04/03/2017 5:31 AM | Ellen Chapman

    ACRA had the opportunity to comment last month on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Guidelines for Reporting on Cultural Resources Investigations for Natural Gas Projects.

    ACRA’s overall impression of the document is positive; the updated guidelines are consistent with the previous version and do not represent any major or troubling deviations. It does appear FERC is strengthening the Tribal consultation responsibilities in the guidelines in a positive manner. We applaud the integration of early and ongoing consultation and communication with Tribes, other interested parties, and project proponents in the revised guidelines. Most of ACRA’s specific comments relate to Boring/Directional Drilling Section 8.0, with some additional comments regarding communication with Tribes.

    You can read our full comment by downloading it here.


  • 02/13/2017 11:41 AM | Ellen Chapman

    On Friday, Marion Werkheiser provided an update regarding legislative and executive developments during the first three weeks of the new administration. She discusses initiatives being tracked by ACRA's Government Relations committee, the new Coalition for American Heritage, Preservation Advocacy Week, and more important ways to get involved! If you didn't make it to the session, watch the recording below!


  • 02/03/2017 8:58 AM | Ellen Chapman

    The first week of the Trump administration has been eventful to say the least. We are providing this analysis as a benefit of ACRA membership. We also invite you to join us for a Members-Only webinar to discuss ACRA’s advocacy strategy and to answer your questions about the latest policy issues on February 10 at 2:00pm Eastern. Registration is free; sign up here. Registration is limited to the first 100 members to sign up.

    Congress Moves Quickly on Regulatory Reform

    The House of Representatives passed two regulatory reform bills in the first days of the new Congress that have the potential to affect the CRM industry.

    Background: The Constitution establishes three branches of government with checks and balances: Congress makes the laws, the Executive enforces them through federal agencies and regulations, and the Courts interpret the laws. Many members of Congress have long expressed disapproval of a “runaway regulatory state” and have been trying to put more power in the hands of Congress to influence federal agencies. Others have expressed concern that putting regulatory authority in the hands of Congress, rather than the Executive, would undermine Constitutional separation of powers. Members of Congress have also been concerned that the Courts are deferring to the agencies too much and not providing a check on agency rule making. Long-standing jurisprudence calls for courts to defer to agency expertise when Congress is silent on an issue. This deference to agency interpretations of the law is called the Chevron doctrine, after a court case from the 1980s in which Chevron Corp. was a party.

    The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act requires federal agencies to submit their existing regulations to Congress for approval or disapproval. Each federal agency would submit 10% of its regulations to Congress each year for 10 years. If the REINS Act becomes law, it would bog down Congress in review of existing regulations and create great uncertainty as to whether existing regulations, like 36 CFR 800, would be approved by Congress.

    The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) would repeal the Chevron doctrine, constrain agency development of guidance, require Congressional approval of certain new regulations, and delay implementation of major regulations until court challenges are exhausted. The result would be a clogged court system and a dramatic slowdown in any new regulatory activity at the agencies. The Act would also require agencies to consider indirect impacts, as well as direct costs, of proposed regulations on small businesses— and require all federal agencies to convene panels of small business representatives to review rules that have a significant economic impact on small firms.

    Our Analysis: While ACRA is pleased to see an emphasis on regulatory relief for small businesses in the RAA, we are concerned that these bills would dramatically slow down federal permitting of critical infrastructure, causing delays in construction by subjecting agencies’ compliance with NEPA, the NHPA, and other federal laws to interminable litigation. Necessary energy, transportation, and other critical projects will languish and may be shelved for lack of schedule predictability and financing that relies on timely federal permitting decisions.

    Next Steps: The REINS Act and the RAA have been transferred to the Senate for consideration. ACRA is circulating an organizational sign-on letter to our preservation partners that we will send to Senators. We will be asking ACRA members to call their Senators in the next couple of weeks to express concern about these bills if it looks like the bills may get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Stay tuned for detailed instructions and talking points.

    President Trump Issues Executive Orders on Infrastructure Reviews, DAPL, Keystone, and New Regulations

    President Trump has issued several executive orders and memoranda in his first week that are of concern to ACRA members. Executive Orders are expressions of administration policy. They cannot make new law, or contradict laws that have already been passed by Congress. The text of the executive orders reveals that they are primarily political statements that do not radically change the status quo.

    Order on Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects: This order establishes a way for agencies to designate projects as “high priority” and receive expedited review schedule from Council on Environmental Quality, within existing NEPA practice. If they don’t keep to the schedule, agencies will have to explain why not. Note that the order does not waive any provisions of NEPA or NHPA— both laws still must be complied with fully. This designation of “high priority” projects is quite similar to the approach that President Obama took in his 2012 executive order establishing the federal infrastructure permitting dashboard for high priority projects. The likely result of this executive order is more emphasis at permitting agencies on finding efficiencies and strategies for completing the NEPA and Section 106 process so that they can meet deadlines on high priority projects. Read the text of the order here.

    Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline: While news outlets reported that this memorandum green lights the Dakota Access Pipeline, the President does not have the authority to waive NEPA and order the pipeline be built. In the text of the memorandum, the President states that he believes the project is in the public interest and urges the USACE to reconsider its call for an EIS on the project and to review and approve the project in an expedited manner. USACE must still comply with NEPA. Note that USACE, Energy Transfer Partners, and the Standing Rock Sioux are still parties to ongoing litigation on the project. While USACE will be under great political pressure to reverse course and approve the project, it will take some time for the pipeline approvals to be sorted out. Read the text of the memorandum here. Read the text of the memorandum here.

    Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline: In this memorandum, the President invites Transcanada to re-apply for permits for Keystone and orders the Secretary of State to reach a permitting decision within 60 days of receipt of the application. He urges the State Department to consider the Final EIS that was issued in January 2014 to satisfy NEPA requirements (and not require updating.) Note that agencies must still comply with NEPA, and it is likely that such an expedited review would expose the agencies to challenges in court. Read the text of the memorandum here.

    The President also issued a freeze on any new regulations from the agencies. Such a freeze is somewhat expected as a new Administration comes in with new priorities, and to give time for new political leadership to be installed. It is not clear how long the regulatory freeze will remain in place.

    The President also directed Homeland Security to begin building the southern border wall he called for during the campaign. Existing law allows the administration to waive NHPA and NEPA for construction of the border wall.

    What’s Next

    Congress will use its authority pursuant to the Congressional Review Act to rescind some of the regulations issued in the waning days of the Obama administration. For a list of rules at risk, see here. ACRA is particularly following the fate of BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule, which ACRA commented on last year.

    The Trump Administration is putting together its promised $1 trillion infrastructure package. A list of projects the administration is considering has been leaked, and it includes road, bridge, and ports projects. The funding mechanism for such an infrastructure initiative remains unclear; during the campaign, the President supported funding through tax credits to the private sector. We will be monitoring the infrastructure proposal closely to make sure that Section 106 and NEPA are not circumvented.

    President Trump is also putting together his budget proposal. We have heard that he plans to call for elimination of the National Endowment of the Humanities and the National Endowment of the Arts. He also plans major cuts to domestic spending, especially at the Departments of Transportation, State, and Justice. We expect the budget will be released in mid-February if the administration keeps to regular schedules.

    What You Can Do

    1. Sign up for ACRA's Advocacy Strategy Session Webinar to be held Feb. 10 at 2pm Eastern

    2. Contribute to ACRA's Advocacy Fund

    3. Join us in Washington for Preservation Advocacy Week, March 14-16: ACRA members will join together with NCSHPO, Preservation Action, the National Trust, and others to take our message to the Hill. Register here. ACRA has a room block at the Fairfax Embassy Row ($245/night). We will send the link for booking at the hotel when it becomes available early next week.

    4. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@acracrm) for the latest updates!

    5. Watch your email Inbox for calls to action!


  • 01/17/2017 10:01 AM | Ellen Chapman

    Earlier this month, President-Elect Trump announced his choice for Secretary of the Interior after much speculation: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.). Rep. Zinke will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on January 17. At last check, the Office of Government Ethics had not given final approval to Rep. Zinke’s financial disclosure reports and ethics agreement – usually a necessary step before scheduling committee hearings.

    A geologist, former Navy SEAL, and Congressman currently holding the sole Montana seat in the House of Representatives, Zinke has supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but voices skepticism of climate change. His wife Lola Zinke was a member of the Trump campaign’s Hispanic and women’s outreach committees, and recently joined Trump’s Veterans Administration (VA) landing team.

    Rep. Zinke seems to be a more reasonable choice for Interior than many of the names floated during the selection process. Here’s what we know about his positions on our issues:

    • Historic Preservation: Zinke signed on to co-sponsor HR 2817, which reauthorized the Historic Preservation Fund, and voted in favor of the Veterans Curation Program (HR 3114). In 2015, Zinke indicated that several historic homes could be a solution to the lack of space at a VA facility in Helena. As a state senator, he voted in favor of a bill to study the impact of historic preservation and strategies for preservation.
    • Natural Resources: Zinke has demonstrated a certain passion for natural resource conservation. In 2015, he introduced a bill to include portions of a Montana creek in the US Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and he supports the Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, he has also stressed his support for mixed use on public lands.
    • Public Lands: Rep. Zinke resigned from the Republican platform committee because of a plank supporting the selling off of public lands.
    • Climate Change: Zinke supports using fossil fuels taken from federal lands and is a climate change skeptic. But that was not always the case. In 2010, he signed into a letter calling global warming "a threat multiplier for instability in the most volatile regions of the world" and speaking of "catastrophic" costs and "unprecedented economic consequences" that would result from failing to act on climate change.
    • Tribes: Zinke frequently takes up Native American causes, but also defends energy companies when their interests conflict with those of the tribes. As a state senator, he voted in favor of a bill that would have required agencies to cooperate with tribes on cultural resources. While he has supported tribal sovereignty and recognition, he has also opposed increased funding for the BIA, supported a plan to reduce food stamp programs on which hundreds of tribal communities depend, and criticized Indian dependence on government assistance.


  • 12/14/2016 3:51 PM | Marion Werkheiser
    A MESSAGE FROM THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION

    Call to Action: Urgent Advocacy Needed, Historic Tax Credit In danger of Repeal in Tax Reform

    President-Elect Trump and Speaker Ryan have prioritized moving tax reform legislation in the first one hundred days of the next Congress which begins in January. A tax reform package could move quickly through Congress by way of the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority for passage in the Senate, instead of the typically needed 60 votes to cut off debate.

    Ways and Means Republican Committee members will be meeting on December 14th-15th to agree on big picture elements of tax reform with a goal to have a draft bill to review in early January.

     We expect tax reform legislation will follow Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” blue print, released earlier this year. This document recommends eliminating tax credits and deductions, which would include the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). 

     The Historic Tax Credit is in grave danger of elimination in tax reform. Historic Tax Credit advocacy is urgently needed, both in the near term and throughout 2017.  The Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is the most significant federal financial commitment to historic preservation. Over the last 36 years, the credit has created 2.3 million jobs, leveraged $117 billion in investment, and rehabilitated more than 41,250 buildings—all while generating enough in federal revenue to pay for itself. 

     The Historic Tax Credit Coalition, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Trust Community Investment Corporation and allied organizations are moving quickly to increase lobbying capacity. However, there is no substitute for the advocacy that you can provide at the state and local level. Your assistance is critical!

     We are hopeful that if a sufficient number of Senators and Representatives convey their support for the HTC to party leadership and to members of the tax writing committees, the Historic Tax Credit can be retained as an important part of a reformed tax code.  

    Contact House Members of Congress ASAP- Call (during office hours) or email the offices of your Members of Congress before December 14th and ask to speak to tax staff or staff contacts you have in offices.

    • a.        If they are on the House Ways and Means Committee, ask that they “Please weigh in and explicitly state your support of the Historic Tax Credit when reviewing the draft Tax Reform Bill.”
    • b.       If they are off-committee, ask that they “Please contact Chairman Kevin Brady and other members of the House Ways and Means Committee to explicitly state your support of the Historic Tax Credit when reviewing draft Tax Reform Bill.”

     

    2.        In-district Meetings in December and January- Advocates are encouraged to host in-District/State Meetings during the Holiday Recess through January with Both House and Senate Members of Congress. Contact congressional offices (during office hours) and ask about scheduling a local visit with House and Senate Members. If you have an opportunity, combine your meeting with a tour of a completed or potential HTC project. If the Members of Congress are unavailable, it is still valuable to meet with staff. These meetings should be coordinated among local preservationists, developers, architects, mayors, Main Street organizations and others in order to convey that the Historic Tax Credit program impacts many constituent groups.

     

    3.        Lobby in DC in 2017-Come to Washington DC and lobby on behalf of the HTC through the Preservation Lobby Day, March 14-16th or at any time in 2017 that fits your schedule. Campaign staff are ready to help plan your visit. Please contact Mike Phillips (mphillips@ntcic.com), Shaw Sprague (ssprague@savingplace.org) or Renee Kuhlman (rkuhlman@savingplaces) who can help you organize a DC visit and set up meetings with congressional offices. If you would like to come to DC to lobby in January and February, some limited travel stipends are available for nonprofit organizations through the Historic Tax Credit Coalition.

     

    The Ask:

     

    Please ask your Members of Congress to support the Historic Tax Credit as part of tax reform legislation that is expected to move through Congress next year. Explain the value of the HTC and ask your Members of Congress to express support to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Orrin Hatch.

     

    Resources:

     

    1.        HTC Fact Sheet and Key Points to share with legislators:

     

    2.        HTC Maps

    a.        State and Congressional District Maps with Economic Impact Data

    b.       Interactive Mapping Tool developed by Novogradac and Company

     

    3.        House and Ways Means Committee

     

    4.        Senate Finance Committee

    How to Contact Your Member of Congress

     

    1.        To locate the name and phone number of your House Representative go to: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

     

    2.        To locate the names and phone number of your Senators got to: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state&Sort=ASC  

     

    3.        Alternatively, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121 (during office hours) and asked to be connected to your Senators' or House Member's DC office. Once connected to the office, you should identify yourself as a constituent, and either asked to be connected with tax staff or ask for the email of tax staff to communicate your advocacy. Then follow-up on your request.

     

    Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act

     

    This Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act (HTCIA) provides several reform options to enhance the Historic Tax Credit as part of a reformed tax code.  While the opportunity to co-sponsor this bill has past, the legislation reflects the reform ideas that have broad political support and could be included in a tax reform package.

     

    ·          The House version of the bill (H.R. 3846) has attracted strong bi-partisan support on the Ways and Means Committee and presently has 53 Members of Congress supporting the bill.

    ·          The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), introduced last March has 7 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

     

    Campaign Staff:

     

    If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please contact the campaign staff:

    Mike Phillips mphillips@ntcic.com (202-588-6049)

    Renee Kuhlman rkuhlman@savingplaces.org (202-588-6234)

    Shaw Sprague ssprauge@savingplaces.org (202-588-6339)

     

    Thank you for advocating with your Members of Congress!

     

     



  • 11/29/2016 12:48 PM | Marion Werkheiser

    Hi ACRA Members,

    We had such an amazing response to the Advocacy Webinar-- nearing 2000 registrants!-- that we decided to record it in advance and send it out as a video to all of the registrants yesterday. With that many participants, GoToWebinar could not guarantee that it would be technical glitch free, and we wanted to folks to have a good experience. We also could do very limited Q&A with that size group.

    You can view the webinar here: https://vimeo.com/193381138

    It has been viewed about 2,200 times already, and we asked viewers to take this survey after watching it: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3XJVDLK

    So far we have over 300 responses to the survey (!!!). Almost all of the feedback is very positive-- folks are grateful to ACRA for sharing information and for getting organized. Many people sent us follow up questions, and we plan on issuing FAQs and answers in the coming days. We also plan to use all of these responses to help inform our strategy and to grow ACRA's database of advocates. We are so excited about the enthusiasm and engagement on this topic!

    I hope you will all watch the video and take the survey so that we can count your feedback as well. I'll send a summary of the survey responses in a few days.

    Recall that this webinar was for a public audience (not just ACRA members), so we kept the content at a fairly basic level so as not to tip our hand on strategy. Moving forward, we will have more higher level strategy sessions with ACRA members only.

    Many thanks,
    Marion Werkheiser


  • 10/26/2016 6:40 PM | Marion Werkheiser

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation is circulating a letter requesting that President Obama create a Bears Ears National Monument. 

    The National Trust would like to secure the support of a large number of preservation, archaeology and cultural resource groups throughout the country to ensure a strong message about the importance of protecting one of the most significant cultural landscapes in the United States.  

    If your firm or any organizations with which you are affiliated would like to sign on, please send an email to Janelle DiLuccia (jdiluccia@savingplaces.org) with the following:

    --Name of your organization (the letter will list the organization name; we don’t need CEO signatures.)

    -- Point of contact for your organization, including name, email, and phone number

    The draft letter is available here

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