Killing the Family Farm – June 2021
Current efforts to eliminate step-up basis and raise the top tax rate to 39.6 percent would be devastating. In a study done by EY (Ernst & Young) not only would an elimination of the step-up basis have an impact on agriculture, it would also damage other sectors of our economy. The study pointed out that for every $100 of revenue raised, it would lower wages of U.S. workers by $32. In other words, roughly 1/3 of the tax income would come out of wage earners pockets. The study also found that in years one to ten there would be a decrease in job equivalents each year of 80,000 jobs, and over the long run it would result in a decrease of 100,000 jobs, again each year. It would have an equally large impact on GDP.
Agriculture would be disproportionally affected since farms and ranches are typically held in the same ownership for decades. Elimination of a step-up basis would place a tremendous burden on the next generation which is trying to take over the family farm/ranch. As you are aware, the agricultural population continues to age, and we are already seeing assets from one generation moving to the next. If a farm or ranch cannot afford to pay the increased annual taxes, then the next generation has no choice but to sell the operation.
Capital gains is a tax on inflation. If you consider a modest 2 percent inflation rate from 1997 to 2020 the value of land has increased over 57 percent. If you have inflation of 5 percent, land values can increase over 200 percent in the same time frame. This tax inflation is tremendously unfair to our citizens.
I contacted our Congressional Delegation this spring encouraging them to oppose any efforts to eliminate the step-up basis and increase the rate for capital gains. In our communications I also asked the Delegation to stand against efforts to reduce the estate tax exemption such as Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont is proposing in S. 994.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation has long advocated for total repeal of estate taxes but efforts to reduce the current levels goes the wrong way and penalizes agriculture disproportionally as a group. Death should not be a profit center for the government.
By Todd Fornstrom, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation President