Johnna Miller, Director of Media Development, American Farm Bureau Federation
The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee continue to work towards a comprehensive tax reform bill while farmers and ranchers have been urging Congress to implement a tax code that recognizes the financial challenges they face. American Farm Bureau tax policy specialist Pat Wolff explains the progress they’ve made so far and what’s next in the fight for tax reform. AFBF’s Lydia Holmes has that story.
Holmes: Reforming the nation’s tax code is important to America’s farmers and ranchers. And more than 50 congressional hearings on tax reform have been held in Washington. American Farm Bureau tax specialist Pat Wolff gives an update on what’s happening on Capitol Hill.
Wolff: Both the House and the Senate are acting like they will be writing a tax bill in September. The House has finished up a series of working groups that studied individual sections of the code and came back with a report. All senators have been asked to give a letter to the chairman of the tax-writing committee by the end of the month outlining their priorities for tax reform.
Holmes: An initiative by the two tax-writing committee chairmen, Senator Max Baucus of Montana and Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, includes a website for comprehensive tax reform called taxreform.gov.
Wolff: The chairmen of the tax-writing committees in both the House and Senate endorse an open process and they’ve invited citizens from across the country to tell them what they think our tax code should look like.
Holmes: Some work was done on estate taxes last year, but farmers and ranchers are still waiting for additional reform.
Wolff: It was a big success for farmers and ranchers, we got a 5 million dollar exemption made permanent and a low rate of 40 percent. There’s certainly an opportunity to provide additional estate tax relief, but some are saying hey, you just got a big deal at the end of the year so you have to wait your turn.
Holmes: Even with some reform on estate tax, there are still many problems with the exemption level for farmers and ranchers.
Wolff: The problem for farmers and ranchers is that when you sell a piece of property, you almost always go over the threshold, so there really is only one high rate for farmers and ranchers and that’s something that needs to be fixed. The second issue is estate taxes. Even though we have a higher exemption it’s not high enough to take care of all farms and ranchers and with the way that farmland values are increasing, that extension become less and less valuable.
Holmes: In August lawmakers will be back in their home states for a summer recess. This is a great opportunity for farmers and ranchers to make their priorities known.
Wolff: Farmers and ranchers need to make sure that their members of Congress know what’s important to them in the tax code. Speaking up now, calling your member of Congress, talking to them while they’re home over the August recess about the tax code, about capital gains taxes and estate taxes is very important.
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