Ag Groups Press for Estate Tax Reform

November 15, 2012 Bookmark and Share

Agriculture organizations are sounding the alarm about estate tax changes that could break up family farms if Congress does not act to stop them before January.

NAWG and more than 30 other farm organizations wrote every House and Senate office this week to urge prioritization of this important issue for farmers and ranchers.

The estate tax changes as planned could devastate family businesses in the agriculture sector by dramatically reducing the estate tax exemption, from $5 million to $1 million, while also dramatically increasing the estate tax rate, from 35 percent to 55 percent.

Many farm businesses that provide the primary income for the families who operate them would reach the $1 million threshold quickly with just a few pieces of equipment and less than 100 acres of land. This means parts of the business would almost certainly have to be split off and sold to pay taxes after the death of the primary owner.

The risk to individual families of even a short period with such a low exemption is heightened because many farm operators are older than the average American and because, while farming has become much safer in recent decades, it is still one of the country’s most dangerous professions.

The groups writing this week – many of which have long opposed the estate tax on principle as well as economic reasoning – urged a full repeal of the tax.

Barring that, they urged changes to the estate tax including a permanent extension of current law with provisions to index the exemption to inflation, provide for spousal transfers and include the stepped-up basis.

“The current state of our economy, coupled with the uncertain nature of estate tax liabilities, makes it difficult for family-owned farms and ranches to make sound business decisions,” the groups wrote.

“[A] permanent extension will give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to conduct business.”

The estate tax is one of many taxes set to change after the first of the year, making up half of what is known as the “fiscal cliff.” Other changes would affect depreciation schedules and amounts, capital gains and payroll taxes.

The full letter sent this week is available at