In an ideal world, says North Dakota Farm Bureau President Doyle Johannes, America would simply be rid of the estate tax. Barring that possibility, his organization would like to see the 2012 status quo maintained. But Johannes did tell me in an interview that his organization believes that Congress is going change the estate tax yet again, and the uncertainty over what is to come is causing a glut in farm and ranch sales in the state.
The estate tax has been anything but predictable in recent years. As you can see from this chart, the amount of estate value exempted from the tax and the tax rate has changed dramatically almost from year to year for more than a decade:
Johannes told me that these unpredictable shifts in estate tax policy make planning for small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, very difficult noting that the values of ag businesses can also shift due to changing land prices.
Farming and ranching operations that are hit by the estate tax are often forced to use proceeds from life insurance payouts to pay the estate tax. Otherwise, these businesses have to be broken up to pay the tax rather than kept intact for future generations.