Why I want to End the Oregon Death Tax…

25 Jun

I have been working on a campaign to End the Oregon Death Tax for about 6 months now.  It all started when I got wind of a small gathering in my town to talk about the death tax and an initiative that was hopefully going to make it to the ballot this coming November (with a lot of work, signature gathering, money, etc.)  I feel like I’m a fairly informed person, I love to learn and read and try very hard to keep up on what is going on, especially when it comes to issues that are close to the agricultural industry.  So when I heard a lot of facts about the death tax in Oregon, I realized that this issue was much more detrimental and harmful than I ever expected.

I know that I have written a blog about this issue already (as have many of my friends) but I feel as though lately I’m getting more and more questions about why this is important and more and more statements from people about why farmers have never been and aren’t going to be effected by this and it’s all about big rich terrible slimy investors saving in taxes.  I’m sick of people asking me how much my farm is worth, and then telling me that there is no way I will reach an exemption.  I’m sick of people looking at the death tax as a non-issue just because it doesn’t affect them since they aren’t millionaires.  So here you go, all you naysayers!  Here is my honest story about why the Death Tax WILL affect me someday.
  1. To those who say farmers have never been and won’t ever be affected…
    I personally know of farms that have been split up because of the death tax liability.  They have had to sell off portions of their farm, split up a family business, and take huge hits personally because of a death of a parent.  To those who want specific examples, that is as specific as I will get because it’s their story to tell. 
  2. To those who want to know how much my farm is worth and if I will reach the exemption…
    I want to give you an example of a typical farm in my area. 1000 acres of prime farm ground, market value can be upwards of $10k-15k per acre.  Right off the bat with only the land, not including buildings, houses, shop equipment, harvesting equipment, large tractors, trucks, etc, you are hitting $12 million dollars.  So let’s say that both parents die, and the agricultural exemption (even though no one can really explain it to me clearly) is at $7.5million per person.  If we take a conservative land value amount along with all the other things involved in running a farm you’re still left with about $3 million that is taxable, usually at a rate around 10%.  Are you still doing the math?  It’s $300,000…in cash…that you and your siblings as heirs have to pay to the state within 9 months.  Do you have that kind of cash??  Or do you expect a farm to have that kind of cash when over farms are usually very leveraged against that land just to make their operating loans every year?  And just as a reminder, majority of these farms are generational, so as it is in my case, more than likely the family a generation before has already paid the tax on that same base of land.
  3. Death Tax is a non-issue and won’t affect anyone other than millionaires…
    This tax, doesn’t just tax the rich, it inhibits and discourages successful business to come into our state.  Oregon is becoming an increasingly business unfriendly state and I think this is another way that we can start to turn that around.  You can’t have a healthy economy without jobs, and you can’t have jobs without businesses willing to come in, invest in our state, and plan to stay for the long haul.  I can’t move my business, but I have to tell you that after paying income taxes, after dealing with measure 66 and 67, there is a large part of me that wishes I could pick up my soil and move it to a state that sees the common sense piece that in Oregon we are missing.  I am not a millionaire, my dad is not a millionaire, and my grandfather was not a millionaire.  We are farmers who just want to be able to farm the soil that generations of blood sweat and tears have given to us.
As you can see I’m passionate about this issue because I honestly see it as a true road block for my future here in Oregon agriculture.  Please take the time to look at the issue, contact me if you have questions and I will try to help to clarify, and please help us to get this out of our state so we can start healing and making Oregon’s economy better for family business.  Also just fyi…signed petitions are due July 6th!
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