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Skelton says House bill eliminates federal estate tax for most Americans
Skelton says House bill eliminates federal estate tax for most Americans

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 14, 2009) — Strengthening the small businesses and farms that dominate rural American economies remains a top priority for me. That is why, over the past months, I have worked to shield farmers, small business owners, and rural families from the burdens of the federal estate tax.

The federal estate tax has been amended many times through the years. Under current law, all estates valued under $3.5 million for single tax filers ($7 million for joint filers) are exempt from the federal estate tax. Estates valued above that amount after deductions are made for expenses, debts, and bequests to a surviving spouse or charity are taxed at a rate of 45 percent. The current law exempts 99.75 percent of all American estates, including all but 554 farms in the United States according to USDA statistics.

The 2001 tax cut, which established the current federal estate tax rules, requires the estate tax to expire on Dec. 31, 2009, and re-emerge at a much higher rate with much lower income exemptions in 2011. This volatility in the estate tax law has created a great deal of concern among families. In order to give more certainty to the American people, the House of Representatives recently approved H.R. 4154, the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act.

I supported this measure, which would permanently extend the 2009 federal estate tax rules, because I know that rural Missourians would benefit from the certainty and lower tax burdens provided by H.R. 4154. The Dairy Farmers of America and U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed and expressed the need for a permanent estate tax solution for their members. And, the American Farm Bureau Federation, while neutral on H.R. 4154, stressed to me in a letter the “need for certainty in estate tax law.”

To provide further tax relief to Missouri’s farm families, I have cosponsored another piece of legislation, H.R. 3524, the Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act. This measure, which was written by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and supported by both Republicans and Democrats, would allow farmers to defer payment of all estate taxes so long as their property remains within the family and in agricultural production. The provision would also allow tax deferrals for land placed in conservation easements and would represent a win for farmers, hunters, and conservationists alike. H.R. 3524 is supported by groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Milk Producers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the Dairy Farmers of America, and the Agricultural Retailers Association.

In these uncertain economic times, small businesses, farmers, and rural families will benefit from extended tax exemptions and certainty in the federal tax code. I have supported two pieces of legislation to do just that, and I will continue working to strengthen the economic foundations of Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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