N.C.B.A. applauds Senate vote on Death Tax

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators are being applauded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for passing Death Tax relief in an April 2 vote on the budget resolution. The Senate voted 51 to 48 to pass an amendment sponsored by Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Senators Ben Nelson, Chuck Grassley, Mark Pryor, Pat Roberts, Mary Landrieu, Mike Enzi, Susan Collins, and John Thune also sponsored the bipartisan amendment.

"This is a huge victory for America’s farmers and ranchers," said Gary Voogt, N.C.B.A. president and rancher from Marne, Mich. "Nearly half of N.C.B.A.’s members have operations that have been in their families for more than one generation, and they should have the right and the ability to pass these operations on to their children and grandchildren."

N.C.B.A. relays that the Lincoln-Kyl amendment would raise the death tax exemption to $5 million per individual and $10 million per couple, indexed for inflation. Under this amendment, the maximum tax rate is reduced to 35%. Estates valued at more than $3.5 million, or $7 million for a couple, are currently taxed at a 45% rate. President Obama has proposed freezing it at this level so it can be dealt with at a later date. But if Congress doesn’t act to freeze or reduce the estate tax, in 2011 it will revert to a 55% tax on estates worth only $1 million or more.

"This vote was a recognition of the extraordinary burden the death tax places on average Americans trying to pass on family cattle operations," said Jill Davidsaver, N.C.B.A. manager of legislative affairs. "The amendments don’t have the force of law, but they are important guidelines for committees that have jurisdiction over the policies in the amendments."

Many farmers and ranchers are "land rich and cash poor," Mr. Voogt said. "This is not a tax cut for the rich," he added. "Cattle producers are often forced to sell off land, farm equipment, parts of the operation or the entire ranch just to pay off liabilities under the death tax. This vote was a strong show of support for our producers, and we appreciate the Senators who stood up for their rights."

"The majority of the U.S. Senate demonstrated that they realize the importance of reforming this tax," Ms. Davidsaver said. "It sets the stage for further action in reducing this burden on our farmers and ranchers."

"We’ll continue to push for a full repeal of the estate tax, but we realize that may not be viable right now in the current political and economic climate. The Lincoln-Kyl amendment is the best option to provide relief in the meantime," Mr. Voogt added.

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