December 18, 2014

Nebraska Farm Bureau declares state tax system broken

HarvestThe Nebraska Farm Bureau has issued a challenge for the new governor and the new legislature: reform the state tax system.

Farm Bureau Vice President Mark McHargue of Central City says the property tax is becoming an increasingly heavy burden for farmers.

“The effect on the bottom line for our members is growing, it’s substantial,” McHargue tells Ken Anderson with Brownfield Ag News. “For some of our ranchers, it’s the biggest check that they write in their operation in a given year.”

The Farm Bureau has declared the state tax structure and school funding system broken. It says a fix is needed.

McHargue says the time for change is right, because a new governor and a new legislature take office next month.

“We are optimistic that we really have a chance here maybe that we haven’t had for a lot of years to actually get some meaningful reform done,” McHargue says. “It’s not going to happen in one year. It’s still going to be a long-term process. But I think the initial steps that we need to take are real positive that we can get that done this year.”

According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau, though farmers and ranchers make up only about three percent of the state population, they pay about a quarter of the property tax collected by the state.

The Farm Bureau says the state must restructure its tax system to find a better balance to fund local obligations, including schools.

Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this report.

Study: Tax credit is big bonus for rural Nebraskans

A study finds a federal tax credit that targets low-income working families is especially important in rural areas in Nebraska and nationwide.

Jon Bailey, at the Lyons-based Center for Rural Affairs, says the Earned Income Tax Credit is focused on putting more money in the pockets of people who have jobs and who make less than around $50,000 a year.

“This is another anti-poverty, poverty alleviation program that more people in smaller areas, rural and small town areas, take advantage of,” Bailey says.

The gap between rural areas and urban areas is growing, he says, so more people will be needing to use the Earned Income Tax Credit when they do their federal taxes.

“This is something that is always something somebody should look at when they’re doing their federal taxes or have whoever does their taxes look at to see if they qualify,” Bailey says, “It’s been proven to be a very effective program for low-income taxpayers.”

The center’s study finds the higher use of the tax credit tracks alongside other economic indicators which show many rural families are still struggling financially.

“It has not only the effect of alleviating poverty for a lot of people,” Bailey says, “but it also acts as an economic stimulus so people go out and spend that money which then has the multiplier effect throughout the economy.”

The center’s report found the number of people who claim the credit is less than 19 percent in metropolitan areas versus more than 21 percent in rural areas and small towns.

Bailey says the increasing importance of the credit to working families should send a message to federal policy makers to consider expanding its reach, making more people eligible.

Drought-stricken livestock producers get a break from the IRS

CowsA policy change by the Internal Revenue Service gives Nebraska farmers and ranchers who were hit by drought more time for recovery.

IRS spokesman Christopher Miller says the agency has changed the rules when it comes to livestock losses.

Miller says farmers often sell off more livestock than usual during a drought and in order to take advantage of tax benefits under the law, they have to replace those livestock within a specified time.

That time limit had been four years, but the IRS has extended the deadline another year for those who were facing a December 31st deadline this year.

“That also means that impacted farmers can defer taxes on capital gains from that sale of the livestock,” Miller says.

The IRS regulations say the one-year extension applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes due to drought. Sales of other livestock, like those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, and poultry are not eligible.

Miller says the overall goal is to provide a break to farmers who were impacted by the drought.

“You will have an extension of time to replace the livestock that you had to get rid of because of those conditions,” Miller says, “and you also have an extension of time to defer any taxes that you get because of the gain in selling that livestock.”

Miller urges Nebraskans to check to see if they qualify under the extension. They need to read IRS publication #225, available on the website


Deadline is next week for extension on federal tax returns

There’s less than one week left for those Nebraskans who have been putting off filing their federal tax returns for 2013, according to IRS spokesman Christopher Miller.

“If you asked for an extension of time to file this year’s tax return, the IRS just wants to remind you that time is running out to get it done. Under the law, you have until October 15th to file a tax return if you asked for an extension this year,” Miller says.

If you haven’t filed that return yet, you are not alone. More than 45,000 Nebraskans asked for an extension to file their taxes this year.

“Interestingly, across the country nearly a quarter of the people who asked for an extension still have not filed their return,” Miller says. “So, it’s a good time to remind people that time is is running out.”

Miller says there are a host of reasons people are so far behind on paying their taxes.

“Often it’s simply because they don’t have the records, or the data, or the paperwork together that will support the deductions that they intend to claim,” Miller says.

He says those who haven’t filed the returns yet are not getting away without paying what they owe.

“An extension of time to file your taxes is not an extension of time to pay your taxes. So, for folks that did request and extension, hopefully if they did owe taxes, they paid as much as they are able to so they an avoid further interest and penalties,” according to Miller.

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Sales tax “penalty” for state’s farmers & ranchers vanishes

Corn combineA sales tax exemption is now in effect in Nebraska on repair and replacement parts for farm machinery and equipment.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau worked with the Unicameral in getting legislation passed that removed that tax burden on farmers and ranchers. Jay Rempe, the bureau’s vice president of government relations, says the savings will bring much-needed benefits to the state and local economies.

“The savings are projected to be about $9 to 10-million statewide with a couple of other benefits,” Rempe says. “Obviously, equipment dealers along the borders with our bordering states that didn’t have the sales tax, it should help them in terms of the business they see.”

The law change became effective when the calendar page flipped to October on Wednesday. Rempe says farm machinery has been exempt from sales tax for years, but Nebraska is one of eight states that has collected sales tax on repairs and parts.

“It really put our dealers and our farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage,” he says. “We worked for many years alongside equipment dealers and others to try and remove this sales tax exemption and finally got the legislature to agree it was a wise policy decision and got it passed this spring.”

Rempe says many producers will use their saved dollars to improve their farmsteads.

“Farmers, when they see tax savings, they typically plow those dollars back into their operations,” he says. “New equipment or new technologies or other ways of improving their productivity. That benefits rural Nebraska as well. We see those dollars reverberating through the local economies like that.”

Rempe says Nebraska was one of only eight states that had that tax and none of Nebraska’s neighboring states collected it.

Senator Annette Dubas of Fullerton introduced LB-96 last winter. The legislature passed it in March and Governor Dave Heineman signed it into law in April.

Thanks to Paul Hughes, WJAG, Norfolk & Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton