Tax increase hurts family farms, ranches and small businesses

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In a narrow party-line vote last week, Senate Democrats rammed through a small business tax increase that would create more uncertainty for job creators and disproportionately hurt family farms, ranches and small businesses -- especially in states like Missouri, where agriculture is our No. 1 industry.

The bill, which was introduced by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, "will undermine economic recovery, choke off job creation, and take money out of the hands of the individuals and businesses that create jobs," according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This legislation will also "result in higher taxes for the vast majority of manufacturers in the United States, threatening their ability to create jobs," according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Yet, contrary to the Democrats' claims, the bill would produce minimal revenue -- approximately enough to run the federal government for only one week.

The most egregious part of this plan relates to inheritance taxes. By increasing the estate tax from its current rate of 35 percent to 55 percent, the Democrats' plan would increase the number of estates hit from 3,600 to 46,700 according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). Amazingly, this proposal is worse than President Obama's proposal, which was universally rejected by his own party. The JCT also found the Democrats' plan would impose a higher estate tax on at least 24 times more farms and ranches, and 13 times more small businesses across America.

This proposal is incredibly harmful for a state like Missouri, which is heavily reliant on agriculture revenue. Missouri has more than 100,000 individual farms -- the second highest number of farms of any state in the nation. The Missouri Farm Bureau Federation noted that the Democrats' proposed estate tax exemption "is not high enough to protect a typical farm or ranch from estate taxes considering land values and the cost of machinery, equipment and farm buildings."

Meanwhile, the American Farm Bureau Federation warned that without congressional action, the estate tax will strike a devastating blow to farmers and ranchers in 2013 who are trying to transition from one generation to the next. Farmers in this country are getting older, as the average age has reached 57. The need for estate planning is real for these families.

Individuals, partnerships, and family corporations own 98 percent of the nation's 2.2 million farms and ranches. These families -- representing less than 2 percent of the U.S. population -- raise about 92 percent of the food and fiber produced in America. The Democrats' devastating estate tax would hurt the very people who are feeding our nation and the world.

Americans work all their lives paying income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes -- only to have the government raid their farms, ranches, and small businesses when they pass away.

This proposal, which passed over the united opposition of all Senate Republicans and Senators Jim Webb of Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, will continue to create uncertainty and stifle American farmers' and ranchers' ability to prosper and feed a world that will require more food and compete for the food available with the desire for more availability and quality. I'm committed to fighting to preserve the family farms, ranches and small businesses -- the backbone of our economy -- for the families that built them.

Roy Blunt represents Missouri in the U.S. Senate.

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