The estate tax, labeled the “death tax” by some organizations, is making an appearance on the campaign trail as Republicans criticize President Barack Obama and claim that continuing the estate tax will hurt small farmers across the country.
In Iowa especially, a key swing state in the 2012 election, the estate tax has become a major campaign issue, particularly for Republicans who had been on the defensive for their party’s failure to pass a new five-year farm bill.
In a recent campaign stop, Governor Mitt Romney said, “My own view is we ought to kill the death tax. You paid for that farm once. You shouldn’t have to pay for it again.” In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Congressman Steve King stated, “The death tax hits the farm economy especially hard, as so much of farmers’ assets are tied up in their land. With farm values increasing in Iowa and throughout the Midwest while crops struggle under record drought conditions, now is the worst time for farmers to see a death-tax increase looming over the horizon.”
Many of these fears are overblown, however, according to some economists. A professor at Iowa State University claimed that most farmers pass on their land before they die, thus avoiding the estate tax. Those who don’t often don’t have enough assets or a high enough land value to require estate tax payments. In 2010, for example, about 7,000 estates paid the tax (with only about 1,000 of these being farms) in a nation of about 2.2 million farms.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer