Tax reform has recently taken center stage in Congress, and the discussions and news stories are heating up. Farmers and ranchers are especially interested in the discussion, as agriculture is a high-risk, high-input, capital-intensive business that needs certain provisions in the tax code essential for success. Any reform of the tax code should embrace the following five principles to make the code simpler, more transparent, revenue neutral and fair to farmers and ranchers
- Be Comprehensive: Tax reform should help all farm and ranch businesses, including sole proprietors, partnerships and sub-chapter S corporations.
- Effective Tax Rate: Tax reform should reduce combined income tax rates enough to account for any deductions or credits lost.
- Cost Recovery: Tax reform should allow businesses to deduct expenses when incurred, including business interest expense, use of cash accounting and keep Section 1031 “like-kind exchanges.”
- Estate Taxes: Tax reform should repeal estate taxes and continue stepped-up basis, which sets the value of land and buildings at what the property is worth when inherited.
- Capital Gains Taxes: Tax reform should lower taxes on capital investments. Capital gains taxes should not be levied on transfers at death.
I urge farmers or ranchers and actually everyone with a keen interest in agriculture (do you eat?) to contact Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, as well as Congressman Greg Gianforte, to reform the tax code so that it is simpler, more transparent, revenue neutral and fair to farmers and ranchers. It’s essential to all of us.
Gina Stevens is vice-chair of the Montana Farm Bureau Tax Committee. She is a tax preparer for an accounting firm, as well as a rancher from Hardin.