By David Marrison, OSU Extension Associate Professor
The federal estate tax is currently set at 35% on estates over $5.12 million. If nothing is changed on January 1, 2013 the estate tax exemption will drop from $5.12 million to $1 million and the estate tax rate will jump from 35% to 55%. In his 2013 budget proposal, President Obama is supporting a $3.5 million estate tax exemption and 45% estate tax rate.
At the close of March 2012, Senator John Thune, Republican from South Dakota introduced the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act S. 2242, which would permanently abolish the federal estate tax. This act would repeal the federal estate tax, repeal the federal generation-skipping transfer tax and lock in a $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption and 35% gift tax rate The Senate bill mirrors House Resolution 1259 which was introduced by House Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas.
Many farm organizations have been advocating the repeal of the Federal Estate Tax due to its effect of these businesses being able to be transferred to the next generation. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander stated in a recent press release, “The death tax is detrimental to the farmers and ranchers who live off the land and run asset-rich, cash poor family-owned small businesses.”
According to a study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin commissioned for the American Family Business Foundation, repealing the death tax could create 1.5 million additional small business jobs and decrease the national unemployment rate by nearly 1% Holtz-Eakin is the former director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Remember, this is an election year so there is not much hope that any action will be taken on the Federal Estate Tax until after November.
What Can I Do?
So what can farmers do? As with any legislation, take time to exercise your right to talk to your elected officials. Let them know how the changes to the federal estate tax could affect your farm. More importantly, schedule an appointment with your attorney to make sure your estate plan is up to date. Be proactive not reactive! To contact your elected officials, go to the House of Representatives website at: http://house.gov/ and search for your local congressman using the Zip code search engine and your State Senators at: http://senate.gov/ and search by state. You can also access and monitor the progress of Senate Bill 2242 and House Resolution 2242 at these sites as well.