The American Sheep Industry Association joined more than 30 groups representing the agriculture industry in sending letters to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate urging them to provide farmers and ranchers with permanent and meaningful relief from the estate tax. Current estate tax relief is set to expire at the end of 2012 with exemption levels dropping to $1 million per individual and the tax rate increasing to 55 percent.
At a minimum, the signators support extending the exemption of $5 million per person and retaining the top rate of 35 percent until such time as full repeal of the estate tax is possible. It is also imperative that any estate tax law passed, other than full repeal, index the exemption to inflation, provide for spousal transfers and include the stepped-up basis.
Family farmers and ranchers are not only the caretakers of our nation's rural lands but they are also small businesses. The 2013 change to the estate tax law does a disservice to agriculture because farmers and ranchers are a land-based, capital-intensive industry with few options for paying estate taxes when they come due. The current state of the economy, coupled with the uncertain nature of estate tax liabilities, makes it difficult for family-owned farms and ranches to make sound business decisions.
In conclusion, the groups urged Congress to act immediately and permanently renew the current estate tax provision, until such time as full repeal is possible. This permanent extension will give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to conduct business.