In Iowa, the government is preparing to fix some problems with matching federal depreciation rules, with taxing of grants that the federal government did not tax as part of Covid relief, and some new rules on PPP loan and Beginning Farmer Tax Credit. Additionally, inheritance tax (tax Iowa imposes on people that inherit property from people that they are not direct descendants) is on its way out the door through a phase out between now and 2025. That is a tax on circumstance, as many times nephews and nieces are the next generation of farm owners and this will remove a financial obstacle for nontraditional farm generational transfers. If you are in line to get Great Aunt Gertie’s 160, feed her vitamins for a couple of more years, it’s worth the investment.

On the fed side, the president is laying out his tax and spending priorities. He has already pushed through a Covid 19 Plan called the American Rescue plan and is now moving towards a significant tax hike to fund physical infrastructure spending (the American Jobs Plan and “human infrastructure” (American Families plan). It might be called the make American Taxed Again plan. A great write up of this is found at the Iowa State Center for Ag Law and Taxation. I will hit the highlights. Note this is separate from the Senator Bernie Sanders introduced 99.5 Percent Act. This proposal would lower the basic exclusion to $3.5 million ($1 million for lifetime gifts) and increase the highest estate tax rate from 40 percent to 65 percent.

The Jobs plan looks to increase corporate tax to 28% (from 21%), imposing tax on corporation book income and funding the IRS to beat the countryside for unpaid taxes or reinterpreted tax returns to generate revenue.

The Families plan calls for 2 years of free community college, free universal preschool (which is reported at 4 years of free education occasionally), universal basic income for parents of children, paid FMLA and additional targeted funds to historically black colleges universities, minority serving institutions and tribal colleges (that is higher education sites that where historically operated to serve minorities), increase Pell Grants, money for teachers. The Plan will pay for these largess distributions by “closing loopholes”, increasing IRS audits and crackdowns and changing how long-term assets are taxed. It would increase capital gains rates (which are currently lower than regular income rates) on those who earn over $1,000,000 (to include the sale of the property in that earning), increase taxes on all income over $400,000, increase the individual rates to the 2017 rates, and tax assets at death as if they were sold, regardless of if the asset is actually sold or not.

Some of the things being considered include the elimination or reduction of the 1031 exchange provision that defer capital gains when selling real estate if you buy another piece of real estate, limiting the use of Net operating loss and making some sort of deferral exemption for “family farms” from the pay at death provisions, and increasing funding for everyone’s favorite government agency, the IRS.

Right now, you pay a tax upon the sale of assets that gain in value if you sell them. This is capital gains. If you hold them for more than 1 year it is a lower rate than if you hold them for less than 1 year. Also, you pay a net investment income tax (NIIT) sales of investment assets at 3.8% if your income is above a certain threshold. The difference between current law and the proposal on the sale of 1000 acre Iowa farm that with $6,525 of gain per acre would be an percent increase of the sales price from 17.6% to 36% of the total sales price. If the owners were not active farmers and had rented the farm out for 10 years, then they would be looking at 43.8% of the sales price going to taxes between state and federal tax.

What about the farm equipment   Under current law, the value of the equipment that has been depreciated out on tax schedules is taxed at ordinary income rates when it is sold. That makes sense, you took a deduction when you bought it to make income and then if it has any value left when you sell it, that amount is “recaptured”. Under the new laws, because of the increase in the NIIT, too much equipment sales and or equipment sales the same year as the land sale and it will be taxed at 39.6%. Ouch. Don’t forget to hold the grain until another year or that will also be hit at that high rate.

Property transferred at death receives a step up (or step down if things are bad) basis adjustment  equal to the date of death value. It’s been that way since 6 years after we started federal taxing folks. The alternatives are carry over basis (meaning that you inherit the cost that grandpa paid as your basis if you ever sell) or now proposed, tax it like it was sold even if it wasn’t. Same thing for donations, if the donation was worth more when donated, pay tax on it like you sold it. 

Currently, a beneficiary receives step up to the date of death. Consider this inheritance, Land – 1,000 acres at $7,200 / acre basis, Machinery – $675,000 basis Corn - $500,000 basis which can be sold without paying capital gains at all by the beneficiary. Under the Families plan, if the beneficiary is not farming, this will trigger 30% tax on the land. If they were able to meet the definition of active family this tax is DEFERRRED, not waived and is payable when the family farm is no longer operating the ground. The plan is silent on the corn and machinery in this example. If this was a gift during the farmers lifetime under the Families plan it is not real clear what happens.