Monday, December 04, 2017

Elimination Of The Estate Tax Is All About Greedy Predators Like The Trumps, Nothing About Iowa Family Farms

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The earliest inheritance tax I could find was a 5% levy on inheritances of estates that went to people other than the deceased's grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings towards the end of Augustus' reign. Receipts went to a fund to pay military retirement benefits. In the U.S. the first inheritance tax was passed in 1898-- but only 75 cents on each hundred dollars of an estate worth over $10,000. On very big estates, there were higher taxes and very wealthy people went crazy and a law suit went all the way to the Supreme Court, which found it constitutional. That hasn't stopped very wealthy people from keeping up the pressure to abolish it. Several states have done so-- including New Hampshire (2005), Utah (2005), Louisiana (2008), Indiana (2012), and several others. In Kentucky, New Jersey and Iowa they go back to the Roman idea and inheritances to spouses, parents, children, grandchildren and siblings are exempt. And... speaking of Iowa, over the weekend Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble took a look at how the estate tax abolition being pushed so hard by Trump and the Republicans has virtually no impact on farms in Iowa. As he wrote, "If the tax reform packages that have now passed the U.S. House and Senate become law, at least one thing appears likely: The federal estate tax will be slashed and perhaps eliminated altogether. That will represent a victory for Republicans in Iowa’s congressional delegation, who have consistently opposed the tax and argued it unfairly lumps in the state’s farmers with some of the country’s richest families. But a review of federal tax data and nonpartisan research on the subject shows that family farmers and small business owners represent a tiny share of estate tax payers, and that the taxes they owe rarely force them to sell land or quit farming. The number of Iowans paying the estate tax actually numbers in the dozens each year, out of roughly 1.4 million who file federal tax returns each year. IRS data from the last five years shows the number of Iowa taxpayers owing estate taxes ranged from 32 in 2012 to 61 in 2015, and that the vast majority of those probably were not farmers or small business owners."

Austin Frerick is the progressive Democrat running for the Iowa seat that includes Des Moines-- and a lot of farm country all the way to Council Bluffs, the Omaha suburbs and the Nebraska border. "Rep. Young repealed the estate tax for his robber baron donors," he told us flatly today. "Plain and simple. He'll tell you its to save family farms but that just aint true. After searching for 35 years for 1 example of a family farm that was lost due to the estate tax, Iowa State Professor Neil Harl stated simply, “It’s a myth."  Only 44 Iowans paid the estate tax in 2016. I'm running to end this 2nd Gilded Age and reinstate the estate tax."
Despite that evidence, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a member of the tax-writing Finance Committee in the Senate, has long presented the estate tax as a potentially ruinous burden on farmers and small business owners.




“The federal estate tax may force family members to liquidate to pay the death tax,” Grassley said in a statement released earlier this year. “It’s harder than ever for families to pass down the family-run farm or business from one generation to the next. The death tax creates financial hardship for family businesses to survive and thrive.”

The estate tax is a 40 percent tax on wealth assessed when a person dies, and currently is applied to assets above $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. The House and Senate bills double those exemptions to $11 million and $22 million, and the House version abolishes the tax completely in 2024.

  In a statement after the House bill passed, U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa’s ag-heavy 4th District, cheered the changes, arguing the estate tax “often falls hardest on family-owned farms and small businesses.”

Likewise, U.S. Rep. David Young, a Republican whose district includes the Des Moines metro, has highlighted changes to what Republicans often call the “death tax.”

In a newsletter sent on Friday, Young called it a "myth" that "repealing the estate tax is a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans."

Rather, he wrote, "The estate tax (sometimes called the death tax) negatively impacts farms and businesses all over the 3rd District... Death should not be a taxable event and families should not have to fear the Internal Revenue Service and more taxes making it more difficult and costly to pass on the farm or family business to the next generation."



That view, in fact, has been a GOP talking point for a generation or more. President George W. Bush made the exact argument in 2001 when pushing tax cuts that raised the estate tax exemption and lowered rates.

“To keep farms in the family, we are going to get rid of the death tax,” Bush declared back then.

The arguments from Grassley, Young, King and others, however, don’t match the reality found in federal tax data-- particularly for Iowa.

The estate tax applies to around 5,000 taxpayers across the entire country each year, and very few of them come from Iowa. Of the Iowans subject to the tax, only a fraction are actually farmers, and a vanishingly small number of them face a tax bill requiring them to sell off farmland or other assets.

No data is available breaking down the occupations or asset types held by the Iowans subject to the estate tax. But national data shows farmers and owners of farm assets make up a tiny share of estate tax payers.

According to IRS data from 2016, just 682 tax filers in the entire country who owed estate taxes owned any farm assets. That represents about 13 percent of the 5,219 estate tax returns in which taxes were owed.

And even that figure likely overstates the number of primarily farm operations subject to the tax. A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service projects that just 65 farm estates annually across the U.S. face an estate tax liability. Less than a quarter of these, the congressional report finds, have insufficient cash to pay their tax bills.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis published earlier this year found a somewhat higher number of farm estates owed the tax in 2016: 0.4 percent, or about 160 nationwide.

Kristine Tidgren, the assistant director of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University, said she’s not aware of any Iowa estates forced to sell land since the estate tax exemption was raised to its current level in 2012.

“I haven’t come across any examples of an Iowa family that had to sell the farm to pay the estate tax,” Tidgren said. “I don’t think the current estate tax system threatens family farmers.”

The USDA report puts hard numbers to the tax liability faced by the few farms subject to the estate tax.

Operations the USDA classifies as small family farms (those with annual income under $350,000) face an average tax bill of about $620,000, or 11 percent of their total value of the estate. For mid-size farms (with annual income between $350,000 and $1 million), the average bill is $3.7 million, or about 24 percent of the estate’s value.

Tidgren said the farmers facing such a bill are typically diversified-- perhaps with an off-farm job or business and liquid assets like stocks and bonds in addition to real estate and equipment.

“With the price of land, there are some farms in Iowa that definitely have to worry about the estate tax, and they might end up having to pay some,” she said. “But generally those are larger operations and oftentimes they have other assets outside of the farm property.”

The number of small businesses impacted by the estate tax is similarly small. That same Congressional Research Service report finds about 94 estates annually that hold half or more of their assets in a small business that heirs will continue to operate after the owners die. And fewer than half of these don’t have the cash on hand to pay the tax.

All this means, in essence, is that lawmakers’ argument for abolishing a tax that generates tens of billions of dollars annually is based on the challenges faced by perhaps a few dozen farm estates and a few dozen more small businesses across the entire country.

When asked for data supporting Grassley’s view, his Senate office offered a report from the American Farm Bureau Federation, which showed that rising land values in recent years have increased the number of farms potentially subject to the estate tax.

That report found Iowa farms with as few as 625 acres-- encompassing as much as 30 percent of farms in the state-- could be subject to the tax in 2016.

This analysis overlooks key factors, however. For one, it applies an exemption level of $5 million, which is roughly the exemption for an individual. For married couples, the first $11 million in assets are exempt from the tax. Using the Farm Bureau’s analysis but applying an $11 million exemption suggests only farms with more than about 1,400 acres might face the estate tax. Ten percent or less of Iowa farms are that size.

The Farm Bureau analysis also does not account for various deductions available that can drive an estate’s taxable value below the $5 million threshold. Of the 120 Iowa taxpayers who filed an estate tax return in 2016, 118 claimed deductions and 44 actually owed taxes.

Young, King and 1st District U.S. Rep. Rod Blum voted for the House version of tax reform containing the estate tax repeal. Grassley and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst likewise voted for the Senate version, and Grassley this year co-sponsored standalone legislation to permanently abolish the estate tax.

And like he said, Austin Frerick has included reinstating the estate tax as part of his platform. If you'd like to support his campaign, you can contribute here. It isn't a statement the DCCC encourages it's corporate shill candidates to make-- and I doubt any would. In the Washington Post article Frerick cited above, Wonewoc, Wisconsin organic dairy farmer Jim Goodman wrote that the Republican myth being perpetrated by Grassley, Young and the rest of them "is a sales pitch, nothing more, again capitalizing on that mystique of the family farm that people hold so dear. Getting rid of the estate tax is a gift to the very rich, not to farmers. As the old saying goes, ask a farmer what they would do if they won a million dollars: Keep farming till it ran out. While estate taxes are not a threat to the family farm, we face plenty of other challenges. But you’ll never see politicians tackle the greatest threat to the family farmer: unfairly low prices for our products... The U.S. agricultural economy has and always will be designed to ensure corporate agribusiness profits at the expense of farmers and consumers. We, the farmers, will of course, be expected to remain silent, work harder and avoid dissent in a nation ruled by an administration that will not tolerate dissent. The nostalgia and fascination with the family farm is gratifying for those of us who still run a family farm, but sadly that doesn’t help pay the bills. In time, the family farm will exist only in nostalgic illustrations on milk cartons at the supermarket, and in the false promises of politicians."


Trump & Paris Hilton-- this is who the estate tax is for

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5 Comments:

At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can only be attributed to the profound stupidity and gullibility of American voters that the motherfuckers who finally passed their wealth detax keep getting re-elected. This passage means that the democraps shall fail to flip the house and will lose seats in the senate to boot. Not that the democraps really wanted to flip either.

Voters will think the Rs are the party of getting shit done, even if that shit means a quicker end to America. But then again the democraps weren't going to fix any of it... ever.

Everyone who has voted for a R or a D in the past 8 elections is either a Nazi or is dumber than shit or both.

Everyone who votes for real, tangible, useful change NEVER votes for R or D.
you know how many that is? 1%. pathetic. americans are truly the dumbest motherfuckers in the history of hominid motherfuckers.

 
At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

It would be important for high school students to learn about these issues in their American history classes - hello!! They should know about what had been going on in this country early in the last century and why all of these laws were passed about progressive taxes in the first place. There were reasons, important ones! Too many Americans are so uneducated and brainwashed by sound bites from Republicans. Too many Americans have such a limited understanding of the background of the issues and the reasons these laws were passed in the first place.

We are becoming the fucking morons! Between ruining our educational system and flipping the bird at the media, we are running a parallel course to Nazi Germany. I'll bet there were many Germans horrified about what was going on in the 1930's with Hitler. You never hear much about the resistance then. I fervently hope our current resistance does not sink into oblivion as well. Keith Olbermann, why the hell did you choose to retire right now? A big mistake!! We still need your Resistance program!! Jon Stewart let us down by retiring at a really lousy time, and now you!!

It is blatant why Republicans hate education and will do everything they can to destroy it.

 
At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Anonymous above, you are an idiot and untethered by reality. Reality and choices are not always black and white or pretty - there is always a great deal of gray. Don't you ever read Noam Chomsky? Lesser of two evils is real, and the reality of the main choice in elections is real. Third party voting, while taking a stand, is a WASTED vote and that is all we have now, our votes to stop this insanity. We'd better not waste our votes in 2018.

Hillary vs. Trump should have been a no brainer for anyone with a brain but people were too deluded with Hillary hate to see what the choice really was in 2016 (a hypocrite or a MONSTER). Many were too idealistic and complacent about our democracy to see what would happen with Trump. Now he and the Republicans are destroying our entire country. I disliked Hillary big time but voted for her all the same. She would never have proceeded to do what Trump is doing or on the scale that he is doing it. She was a war hawk? Now we have a delusional impulsive ignorant asshole with his fingers on the nuke trigger. She was in with Wall Street? Now we are drowning in the swamp and our entire financial health and economy will fall off a cliff. Would she be destroying the air and water and dismantling national monuments? No. Would she be leading cheers for racism and white supremacy? No. She was a complicated candidate; on the other hand, TRUMP WAS ALL BAD ALL THE TIME.

Matt Taibbi had it right in the Rolling Stone. At some level, Americans deserve what we now have running the country. Trump as well as the Republicons were voted in, in part due to the gerrymandering and voter suppression, but hey. How many millions voted for him? 60 or so MILLION PEOPLE? The Russians sure helped it all along but it would not have worked if people weren't such fucking idiots and so blind and complacent.

It turns out our country and our democracy are far more fragile than we all thought. And that the right wing is too fucking strong. We need to vote against them, not for a third party loser.

 
At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, a vote for either R or D *IS* a vote for the right wing, the billionaires and corporate rule.

And the longer it takes voters to have that epiphany is the longer it will be under the boot of the right.

Lesser evilism has gotten us to our present open sewer. If the left actually chose left reps and leaders, we would never have had a cheney/bush, obamanation nor a trump. And Clinton would never have been elected too. But YOU and your like-simple-minded, and yeah there were 65 million of you, still think electing more right-wing DEMOCRAPS is the answer to the right-wing Republicans. Fools, all of you.

By all means, follow the money's puppet show and continue to march rightward. Ignorance truly is bliss, it appears.

 
At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, your analogy to Nazi Germany is salient. They created junk science to support their racial theories and forbade the teaching of anything discovered and created by Jews. Ironically, their scientists needed a lot of those discoveries if they were ever to develop an atomic bomb.

Instead of crackpot racial theories, the usa limits education of topics that are inconvenient to corporations. And, in general, they refuse to teach independent and reasoned thought. Thus, religion and racism flourish.

 

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