It happened again, this time in Durham County, North Carolina. Surviving family members were forced to sell farmland that had been in the family since 1780, in order to satisfy federal inheritance or "death taxes," which totaled 55 percent of the land's value. Although Congress began a process last year to repeal such taxes by 2010, without further action the repeal would last only one year and return to haunt farm families again in 2011, and in subsequent years.
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote in early June on H.R. 2143 to make death tax repeal permanent. The Senate is also prepared to consider similar measures in June, but Farm Bureau can only support the Gramm/Kyl option that offers a true and permanent repeal of federal death taxes in the United States. Measures that would keep death taxes alive and only increase exemptions do not go far enough to protect the children and grandchildren of farm families from burdensome taxes and regulations. A death tax in any form will weigh farmers with the cost and worry of estate planning.
In the Durham County case the inherited farmland was located in a highly developed stretch between Durham and Raleigh. Surrounded on all sides by housing developments it was reported to be the largest tract of undeveloped land remaining in the area. It represented an island greenway; a piece of open space and productive land in a sea of otherwise developed property. The new owners reportedly plan is to develop this tract for housing.
In this single example, the death tax not only ended ownership of land that had been in one family for over 220 years, it ended hopes of keeping it in open space for the greater public benefit.
A government that encourages farm men and women to invest a lifetime in protecting land and growing it to a profitable state, should not saddle their prodigy with little option but to sell that land to the highest bidder, in order to pay the death tax bill. North Carolina Farm Bureau joins the American Farm Bureau in urging the U.S. House and Senate to make the death tax repeal permanent, and end inheritance taxation once and for all.