Gomez took the deduction in 2005, claiming it as a donation to the National Architectural Trust. Gomez pledged to the Trust that he would not change the facade of his historic, 112-year-old Cohasset home. That's known as an historical easement, essentially handing over the historical facade of his home to the Trust, a concession worth a great deal of money—$281,500. So where does the scam part come in? Gomez's house is within the Cohasset Common Historic District. The bylaws within that district already prevent homeowners in historic homes from making any changes to the exterior of their homes. He signed a pledge that gave him $281,500 to agree not to do something that he was already forbidden from doing. One tax attorney agrees with the IRS that this is a scam.
One specialist in conservation easement law, Scott Knott, a tax partner in The Ferraro Law Firm in Washington, D.C., said that if easements mandated by local laws are already in place, homeowners have nothing to claim as a tax deduction.
“The key is the valuation of the easement and if there is already a restriction on the property, the value is not diminished by the easement,’’ said Knott. “The value of any easement that has the same restriction already in place is zero.’’
The Justice Department filed a complaint against the Trust in 2011, charging that it "marketed its preservation easement program with claims that IRS rules allow for charitable deductions of between 10 to 15 percent of the property value" when the IRS had no such rules. A federal court barred the Trust from making that claim in a 2011 ruling. Here's what one of Gomez's would-be future colleagues, Sen. Chuck Grassley, had to say about this scam back 2004, about the time Gomez was taking the deduction.
“It is very discouraging to find yet another example of snake oil salesmen misusing tax-exempt status and abusing the tax laws intended to encourage charitable giving, all for the purpose of making a fast buck,’’ Grassley, then chairman of the Committee on Finance, said in a December 2004 press release.But what's another snake oil salesman in the Republican Senate caucus? He'd fit right in. But this whole story begs the question, are all Massachusetts Republicans assholes?