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Letter to the editor: Farmers shouldn’t be used to sell tax reform


Whether Republican or Democrat, most of us agree that tax reform and simplification are necessary. However, as is often the case, those supporting a piece of legislation overstate their talking points. As a farmer I felt I had to respond to those politicians who use farmers like me as the reason why the estate tax should be eliminated. Fact of the matter is the tax affects very few family farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, or in any state for that matter. Listening to the political talking points used to sell the latest House of Representatives tax reform bill, including those from Rep. Kevin Cramer, the estate tax is a tremendous burden on the average family farmer or rancher – but that’s just not the case.

Given the exemptions of nearly $5.5 million per person and almost $11 million for a couple, the vast majority of estates are not affected by the so-called “death tax.” Last year, according to the IRS, fewer than 10 estates in North Dakota were required to pay the tax – any family farm or small business worth less than that is exempt.

So then why did the House of Representatives just pass a bill that raises taxes on the middle class – but say they were trying to help farmers by doubling the estate tax threshold from about $5.5 million to $11 million for individuals, and from $11 million to $22 million for a couple? After 10 years the tax is eliminated. This wasn’t to protect farmers – and using farmers as a political pawn to help big businesses and billionaires doesn’t sit well with North Dakotans I know.

Looking through the smoke and mirrors, we can see that the tax bill Cramer helped the House pass is detrimental to middle-class North Dakotans, including farmers. It gives massive handouts to wealthier Americans with few benefits for workers and retirees. By 2027 half of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.

According to the nonpartisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, more than 30,000 North Dakota households earning less than $106,000 will actually see a tax increase under this plan. They also allow for $25 billion in Medicare cuts and eliminate tax deductions for North Dakota teachers who often need to buy supplies out of their own pockets. Are these our priorities for tax reform?

North Dakotans, including farmers and ranchers, deserve real reform that simplifies the tax code, eliminates loopholes, makes it more fair and puts money back in the pockets of middle-class families. Instead, we got a false sales pitch about the estate tax to sell a bill that is a tax hike for many hardworking North Dakotans.