Commentary: Farm Bureau supports overhaul of the federal tax code

Issue Date: April 3, 2013
By Bob Stallman

Bob Stallman

It's that time of year again—tax time.

Boston threw a tea party to protest it; Shakespeare and Mark Twain have prattled off quotes about it; the Beatles even dedicated a song to it. Nothing brings people together more than rallying against a tax.

While taxes are necessary for a functioning government and society—where would we be without public schools, roads and firemen or police officers?—if not reined in, they can become too much for American families and businesses.

Taxes should never impede job creation, higher wages and economic investment. But, unfortunately, complex and unjust tax laws have been doing just that. To get the country back on track, Congress is working to reform the tax code and congressional leaders say that nothing is off the table, which is good news for farmers and ranchers.

Farm Bureau supports an overhaul of the current federal income tax system. The new tax code should encourage, not penalize, success and promote savings, investment and entrepreneurship. Importantly, it should be fair to farmers and ranchers and other owners of other family businesses and small businesses. The tax system should be transparent and simple for Americans to understand.

Farmers and ranchers work in a world of uncertainty. From volatile global markets to fluctuating operating expenses, from Mother Nature's many moods to disease outbreaks, it makes running a farm or ranch challenging under the best of circumstances. Add a complex and burdensome tax code, and the challenge becomes even greater.

To provide a fairer tax system, Farm Bureau supports lowering tax rates for individuals and providing additional relief from the capital gains tax for farmers, since they are hit especially hard by the tax. We also advocate repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax. This tax no longer serves its original purpose of preventing tax avoidance by higher-income Americans, but instead creates a burden on the middle class. While these measures would significantly help farmers and ranchers, it would benefit many other Americans and small family businesses.

Other tax provisions, like the Health Insurance Tax and the Medicare Contribution Tax, also need to be repealed. The HIT tax will raise insurance costs for farmers and ranchers, making it harder to purchase coverage for themselves, their families and their employees. The Medicare Contribution Tax, which is a tax on unearned income, will especially burden farmers and ranchers, since theirs is such a capital-intensive business.

Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing in this world is more certain than death and taxes. While both are inevitable, the federal tax code should be the lesser of the two evils. Making our tax system fair, simple, understandable and non-burdensome is imperative for all Americans.

(Bob Stallman, a cattle and rice producer from Texas, is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.