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How many farms are subject to the estate tax (if you are a Democrat) or the death tax (should you use the term favored by Republicans). Remember, in 2009, estates valued at less than $3.5 million will owe no estate/death tax. The highest marginal tax rate for estates is 45 percent this year. In 2010, the estate/death tax is repealed altogether, only to come back the next year to include all estates over $1 million.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that about 2.9% of the 38,234 farm estates projected for 2009 are estimated to have assets over $3.5 million and therefore be subject to the tax. That’s 1,108 farms. But only half of those farms (554) would be taxable after deductions. These farms have assets worth, on average, $7 million. The average farm subject to the estate/death tax in 2009 will owe $1.1 million, according to the ERS.

The term “farm” covers a lot of territory, including a scad of hobby farms (those with revenues under $250,000). No surprisingly, it will be the commercial farms (those with over $250,000 in sales) that will be most likely to pay the estate tax. The ERS estimates that 10 percent of the estates of commercial operators will owe some federal estate tax in 2009. Congress has written in several provisions to exempt farmland and to make it easier to pay the estate tax. See the article for the full details. 

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