WASHINGTON – Congressman Diane Black (R-TN), a member of the House Budget Committee and Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012 (H.R. 6439) to protect family-owned farms, forests and ranches from the negative effects of the estate tax.
“More than 9.9 million acres of Tennessee’s forestland are owned by 531,000 family forest owners. The federal estate tax threatens the livelihoods of many hard-working families and the public benefits their forests provide.
“America’s rural lands are an incredible asset and value to our country – by supporting good paying rural jobs, providing places to hike, hunt, and fish, as well as wildlife habitats and forest products we use every day. Currently, the tax code unfairly burdens family-owned farms, ranches and forests – often times forcing them to sell their land and timber or go out of business,” said Congressman Diane Black.
For many family owned forests, the death of a parent means they must sell their family’s land and timber, because they are land rich but cash poor with few other assets. While others are forced to harvest their timber before it is ready, in order to pay their estate tax. Special use valuation is an option that helps forest owners and farmers with their federal tax burden, but many do not utilize it because of its stiff penalties for harvesting timber.
The Keep the Forest and Farm in the Family Act of 2012 addresses this issue and provides estate tax relief to America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners. Specifically, the bill will allow farmers, ranchers and forest owners to:
· Value their land and their timber at current “use” value, rather than “fair” market value, as long as they keep the land working for 10 years.
· Remove a problem with the current tax provision that penalizes forest owners who harvest their timber within 10 years.
As the wildfires that have raged across the south and west this year and the insect infestation that plague our forests have shown us, landowners need timber harvesting as a tool to improve the health of our woodlands. However, timber harvesting penalties stand in the way of sound forest management.