Estate tax on death’s doorstep

A farm in Ladora, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall | AP file

The Des Moines Register has looked at Iowa’s family farms and suggests things would be fine on the farm regardless of what happens to the estate tax.

When the tax is up for debate every few years, supporters almost always invoke the family farm. Who would possibly be against the family farm and the poor widow who has to sell because she can’t pay a tax bill?

Who would have to sell the family farm? Almost nobody in the farm state of Iowa, the newspaper reports.

“I haven’t come across any examples of an Iowa family that had to sell the farm to pay the estate tax,” Kristine Tidgren, the assistant director of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University, said. “I don’t think the current estate tax system threatens family farmers.”

“With the price of land, there are some farms in Iowa that definitely have to worry about the estate tax, and they might end up having to pay some,” she said. “But generally those are larger operations and oftentimes they have other assets outside of the farm property.”

But why should they have to pay anything at all, especially given all the boozehounds in the nation, suggests Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley said, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Tidgren says eliminating the estate tax will make it easier on those families who currently have to do significant financial “planning” to move money and assets around to avoid having to pay taxes.

The bill that passed the Senate doubles the exemption to the tax, so it’s applied only to an individual’s estate above $11 million or a couple’s estate over $22 million. The House version of the bill doubles the exemption in 2018 and kills it off in 2024.

Related: Next Up For The GOP Tax Bills: Making Them Match (NPR Morning Edition)

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley On Why He Supports The Senate Tax Bill (NPR All Things Considered)