Cap gains tax precludes farmers from passing torch
The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Congress to reform the capital gains tax because of its detriment to young and beginning farmers.
In a statement submitted on Sept. 20 to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees’ joint hearing on tax reform, AFBF said the cumbersome tax makes it difficult for current farmers to pass the torch to a new generation of agriculturalists.
Capital gains taxes apply when land and buildings from a farm or ranch are transferred to a new or expanding farmer while the owner is still alive. This occurs most often when a farmer wants to expand his (or her) farm or ranch to take in a son or daughter, or when a retiring farmer sells his business to a beginning farmer.
“Since approximately 40 percent of farmland is owned by individuals age 65 or older, capital gains taxes provide an additional barrier to entry for young farmers and ranchers at a time when it is already difficult for them to get in to the industry,” said the AFBF statement. “Capital gains tax liabilities encourage farmers to hold onto their land rather than sell it, creating a barrier for new and expanding farms and ranches to use that land for agricultural purposes.”
This added cost also increases the likelihood that farm and ranch land will be sold outside of agriculture for commercial uses to investors who are willing to pay more, causing agricultural land and open space to be lost forever.
The capital gains tax especially hurts farmers because agriculture requires large investments in land and buildings that are held for long periods of time and account for 76 percent of farmers’ assets. Further, 40 percent of all farmers report some capital gains – nearly double the share for all taxpayers. And the average amount of capital gains reported by farmers is about 50 percent higher than the average capital gain reported by other taxpayers.
“Because capital gains taxes are imposed when buildings, breeding livestock and land are sold, it is more costly for producers to shed unneeded assets to generate revenue to adapt, expand and upgrade their operations,” said the statement. “This is neither good for the long-term prosperity of farm and ranch operations or for the rural economies their operations help sustain.”
The top capital gains tax rate will increase by a third on the first of the year, from 15 percent to 20 percent. Farm Bureau supports a permanent extension of the 15 percent rate.