House tax plan would increase burden for family farmers and ranchers
The U.S. House of Representatives released its blueprint for sweeping tax reform in a bill known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation, which is billed as a simplification of the tax code, would enact the most significant changes to national taxation in decades.
If passed, the bill would consolidate the current seven income brackets to just four, which would be taxed at rates of 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent, and 39.6 percent. Though about 93 percent of Americans would see at least modest tax cuts, the bulk of the windfall would go to high-earners; indeed, middle-income earners would save only about $800 per year, while those in the top 1 percent would save an average of $37,000. Other provisions in the bill would also disproportionately help the wealthiest among us. For example, the act would immediately double the exclusion for estate taxes, from $5 million to $10 million, while ultimately eliminating the tax entirely within six years. According to the Washington Post, usually only the top 0.5 percent of earners have to file an estate tax. When it comes to agriculture, the effect is even more negligible. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, only 663 farms had to file an estate-tax return last year, of which a mere 161 owed any taxes.
The bill includes other significant changes, including increasing the standard deduction and child tax credit, eliminating the state and local tax deduction, lowering the corporate tax rate, among others. These changes don’t come for free; by some estimates, the bill would increase the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
National Farmers Union expressed dismay about the overacting elements of the plan, as they would shift the nation’s tax burden from the wealthiest Americans to the backs of the middle class. Instead, NFU recommends a shift towards “simplified, progressive tax policy that recognizes the unique needs of family farming and ranching operations. This includes maintaining the estate tax and provisions like cash accounting, stepped-up basis, interest expensing, and others that are important to sustaining a family farm in the 21st Century.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to release its own version of tax reform on Nov. 9, which is anticipated to diverge from the House plan in many ways.