Viewpoint: Congress misses boat on federal death tax

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Congress recessed at the end of September, marking yet another missed opportunity to repeal the federal death tax.

In 2001, Congress voted to end the death tax as a part of a comprehensive tax relief package. The law provided immediate relief through rate reduction and a phased-in expanded exemption, with complete repeal occurring in 2010. The tax will return in 2011, however, if further action isn't taken to make the repeal permanent.

Opponents of permanent repeal argue that it is just a tax break for the wealthy and that agricultural operations are rarely impacted. They obviously don't understand production agriculture or the pressures faced by farm and ranch families.

It is often said that farmers are asset rich and cash poor, as the capital they accrue throughout their lifetimes is tied up in land, buildings and equipment. While most producers may not have to sell their farms to pay the tax, a large number of families must hire accountants and lawyers to assist them with estate planning because they do not know how much their land and assets will be worth in the future. Their resources would be better spent investing and growing their businesses.

A majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Representatives Akin, Blunt, Emerson, Graves, Hulshof and Skelton, have voted at least two times since 2001 to permanently repeal the death tax only to see the legislation filibustered in the Senate. Fortunately, Senators Bond and Talent continue to lead the fight against this unfair, onerous tax.

For too long the death tax has haunted farm and ranch families and small business owners. Let's hope Congress puts it to rest once and for all.

Charles Kruse is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

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