A new effort to permanently repeal the estate tax was launched by a group of bipartisan lawmakers last week. Congressmen Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Mike Ross (D-Ark) were joined by Representatives Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Dan Boren (D-Okla) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) led the effort.
Farmers and ranchers tend to be the most affected by the estate tax. Because the law doesn’t differentiate between people and their business, this group is often impacted twice. Farming is a capital intensive business and often business assets are included in a person’s estate. Families are frequently forced to sell the majority of assets to pay the International Revenue Service.
Noem believes that the tax hurts family farms and ranches at a terrible time and knows firsthand the aftermath the "death tax" can cause.
"When my own dad died, our family was forced to make the choice to either sell land or take out a loan to pay the tax," she says. "We took out the loan, but that lesson taught me a lot about the reach of government. Death simply should not be a taxable event."
Nunes agrees that estate tax hurts Americans at devastating times and believes it is one of the worst forms of double taxation in our country.
"Money that has already been taxed when a person is alive is taxed again at death," he says.
Ross says many of his constituents have concerns that when they die their business (farms included) will fail because they won’t be able to pay the taxes and keep the business operating.
"The death tax is unfair and punishes those Americans who work hard all their lives so they can pass their family business down to the next generation when they die," Ross says.
The estate tax often causes succession to fail and Brady realizes that.
"The death tax is still the No. 1 reason family farms and businesses in America aren’t passed down to the next generation. It’s the wrong tax at the wrong time and it hurts the wrong people," he says.
Estate Tax Tragedy Can Be Avoided
This group hopes to end the death tax permanently in America, however in the meantime it is important that farmers and ranchers are prepared. In episode 15 of "Leave a Legacy TV" attorney Tom O’Diam says that planning for the unknown is the most important.
"In my career, I have never seen estate tax ruin a family farm," O’Diam says. "What I have seen is lack of planning ruin the farm."
He also stresses that it is important to coordinate your succession plan and your estate plan which requires an attorney with expertise.
For more information about succession planning check out the Farm Journal Legacy Project