This September, we introduced the Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012, H.R. 6439, to protect American farms, forests and ranches from the negative impacts of the estate tax.
The federal estate tax can threaten these rural lands when the families who own them are faced with the setback of having to sell their land and timber because they are land rich but cash poor, with few other assets.
In these situations, families often harvest their timber before it is ready to pay their estate tax. Special use valuation is an option that helps forest owners and farmers with their federal tax burden, but many do not utilize it because it carries penalties for harvesting timber.
If passed, the Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012 would help address this issue and provide estate tax relief to America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners. Regardless of whether you support full repeal of the estate tax or you support the current levels, we should all be able to agree that tax relief for family-owned lands is a an important step to help protect America’s rural way of life.
Specifically, the bill will allow farmers, ranchers and forest owners to:
Value their land and timber at current “use” value, rather than “fair” market value, as long as they keep the land working for 10 years.
Remove a problem with the current tax provision that penalizes forest owners who harvest their timber within 10 years.
As the wildfires that have raged across the south and west this year and the insect infestation that plague our forests have shown us, landowners need timber harvesting as a tool to improve the health of our woodlands. However, timber harvesting penalties stand in the way of sound forest management.
America’s rural lands are an incredible asset and value to our country. They support good paying rural jobs and provide places to hike, hunt, and fish, as well as wildlife habitats and forest products we use every day.
A way we can protect and preserve rural America is by ensuring the families who own these lands can continue to provide us with these benefits by no longer burdening them with a crippling tax bill that threatens to force them out of business.
Photo by Rob Amberg shows the Kerns family on their Iowa Tree Farm.