By David L. Marrison, Associate Professor
At the end of 2010, President Obama signed “The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.” Most will remember that this bill extended many of the Bush era tax cuts. What many do not remember is that this legislation also made some significant changes to our federal estate tax laws. And quite frankly, this is the one area that concerns me the most when I think of the future of many of our farms across Ohio.
The estates of every U.S. citizen are subject to the federal estate tax upon their death. However, a certain potion is exempt from the tax. In 2012, this exemption is $5.12 million. Therefore, in 2012 if the value of the net estate – meaning the gross estate reduced by allowable estate tax credits and deductions – does not exceed $5.12 million, then the estate will pass to the heirs free from federal estate taxes. Any amount above $5.12 million is subject to a 35% tax. The increase to a $5 million exemption was a welcomed relief as individuals developed their estate plans.
The increase to the $5 million exemption is short lived as the increase only applies to 2011-2012. Congress must revisit the estate tax laws before the end of 2012, otherwise we will revert to pre 2001 exemption levels. This means that on January 1, 2013, the federal estate tax exemption will drop all the way down to $1 million and the estate tax rate will jump up to 55% (Ouch). This could affect hundreds of farms, small businesses and recipients of oil & gas lease payments. It is not hard for many of our farms to be valued at over $1 million dollars. Can you afford to pay a 55% estate tax on the value above $1 million? This could be a nail in the coffin for many small farms trying to transition their farm to the next generation.
So what can I do? I think it is imperative that farmers exercise their right to talk to their elected officials. Let them know how the changes on the bonus depreciation measures and the federal estate tax could affect your farm. More importantly, schedule an appointment with your attorney to make sure your estate plan is up to date. Be proactive not reactive!
Contacting Your U.S. House of Representative
Go to the House of Representatives website at: http://house.gov/ and search for your local congressman using the Zip code search engine and your State Senators at: http://house.gov/ and search by state.