Agricultural Land Taxable Values Down . . .

Economic Tidbits 12.18.17

The taxable value on agricultural land declined 2.77 percent in 2018 according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue.  Taxable value for all real property increased 0.96 percent, with residential and recreational property value growing 3.66 percent, and commercial and industrial property growing 6.94 percent. The decline in agricultural land values marks the second consecutive year taxable values have shrunk.  Prior to last year, the taxable value on agricultural land had not declined since at least 1993, and perhaps as far back as the late 1980s.  It may seem like a distant memory, but just three years ago, the taxable value of agricultural land statewide increased almost 20 percent.  Since then, market values for land have declined between 15-20 percent and these declines are now being reflected in taxable values.  Expect taxable values to continue to decline over the next few years due to the lag effect in how taxable values are set.  Values are set using data on sales prices from the three years prior to the tax year for which the taxable values are being set.

Continue reading

Federal Tax Reform: Property Taxes Would Still Be Deductible . . .

Economic Tidbits 12.18.17

Lawmakers moved forward on federal tax reform after negotiators agreed to language in a conference report.  Both the House and Senate are voted on the conference report this week.  Many farmers and ranchers continue to ask whether property taxes paid on agricultural land, buildings, and equipment in their farm or ranch operations could still be deducted.  Yes—the conference report does not change the ability to deduct property taxes as a business expense by farmers and ranchers on Schedule F, Schedule E, or Schedule C.  The report does establish a $10,000 limit on the deduction for state and local income and property taxes, but the limit only applies to itemized deductions claimed on Schedule A filed by individual filers.  Even though most farmers file income taxes as individuals, business income from a farm or ranch is reported on Schedule F, E, or C, where property taxes can still be deducted as a business expense.

Continue reading

Property Taxes Can Still Be Expensed . . .

Economic Tidbits logo

Last week the House Ways and Means Committee released its long-awaited federal tax reform proposal.  The proposal would change how farmers and ranchers are taxed both as individuals and as businesses.  Many farmers and ranchers are wondering if property taxes paid on land, buildings, and equipment could still be expensed as business expense under the proposal.  Yes-the ability to deduct property taxes as a business expense by farmers and ranchers on Schedule F would continue.

Continue reading

Disregard for Taxpayers Apparent in SCC Board Action

Steve Nelson1By Steve Nelson, farmer from Axtell, Nebraska and Nebraska Farm Bureau president

 

Can you hear me now? You’ll recall that catchphrase from the popular Verizon ad campaign promoting the company’s prowess in ensuring cell phone customers could connect from virtually anywhere. If only the Southeast Community College’s (SCC) Board of Governors had such a reliable network.

Last November, taxpayers from across the 15-county SCC area sent a message to SCC. It was loud and clear. It came in the form of voters overwhelmingly defeating a $369 million SCC bond measure with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The voters message; show restraint, don’t push massive property tax increases that we can’t afford. Despite the clarity of the message, it apparently never got through, or worse, was ignored by the SCC Board of Governors.

Despite the call for being cautious in taking more taxpayers dollars, in late September the SCC Board acted to increase their tax levy. Instead of a slight increase, the Board opted to take the maximum allowable levy authorized by the state for building construction. The Board’s action will effectively raise property taxes on SCC taxpayers and, in the process, appears to show complete disregard for the message sent by voters.

Partners in the Vote NO 369 coalition, which formed in opposition to SCC’s bond, had warned voters leading up to election day that passing the bond measure was too risky, given that should the bond pass SCC would still have the ability to raise their property taxes even more, by using the building construction levy authority.

Less than 12 months from the vote of the people, that’s exactly what the SCC’s Board of Governors did, pushing forward with their plans, and in the process showing how determined SCC was to take more taxpayer money and how easy it is to ignore the wishes of those who have to fund SCC expansion.

As a partner in the Vote NO 369 coalition, we’ve received numerous calls from angry taxpayers outraged by the SCC’s Board action. They believed, like so many others, that SCC should have gotten the message last fall. Their concerns are well founded. If a 2-1 vote against boosting taxes won’t get their attention, what will?

The smart move, and what we are encouraging the SCC Board to do, is to reconsider their action. While the heart of the matter is about the money, in the vein that SCC is intentionally and actively taking more from those who’ve signaled they aren’t ready to give it, the reality is SCC is breaking public trust, a trust that when taxpayers speak, the public entities accountable to them will listen.

We understand the SCC Board has a responsibility to juggle the needs of students and taxpayers. But we also know that strong public and private relationships are important for building educational opportunities; that includes having a relationship with taxpayers. There’s no denying SCC and the other community colleges have an important role to play in helping grow Nebraska. To keep those relationships strong, SCC’s Board would be best suited over the long-run in taking a step back at this time and recognize the needs of taxpayers. After failing to respond to their initial message, taxpayers across the area are wanting SCC to demonstrate they heard the message so they can stop asking, “Can you hear me now?”

Property Tax Credit Averages $2.28 per Acre . . .

Economic Tidbits logo

The property tax credit for 2017 under the Property Tax Credit Act will reduce taxes on agricultural land an average $2.28 per acre.  To put the figure into context, property taxes levied on agricultural land for 2016 averaged $26.07 per acre.  The total amount of tax credit provided to agricultural land owners for 2017 will equal almost $105 million, or 8.7 percent of the total taxes paid in 2016.  In other words, without the credit, property taxes paid on agricultural on agricultural land for 2017 would be 8.7 percent higher.
The total credit amount for all real property owners will equal $224 million, an increase of $20 million over the previous year as provided in LB 958 passed in 2016.  LB 958 also provided that additional weight be given to agricultural land in distributing the credit monies.  In absolute dollar terms, Custer County agricultural property owners will receive the most credit at just over $2.95 million, followed by Holt County and Platte County property owners.  In percentage terms, the credit provided to Keya Paha County agricultural property owners will equal 14.6 percent of 2016 taxes paid, 13.6 percent for Loup County owners, and 13.2 percent for Wheeler County owners.   The map below plots the credit as a percentage of 2016 taxes paid on agricultural land in each county.  The more yellow or red the county spot, the greater the percentage.  For exact figures for each county, click here.
 

Prop Tax Credit 9-26-17

Source: Nebraska Department of Revenue

 

 

Jay RempeJay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

Property Taxes Still Top Priority

steve corn head shotIn early June I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Cattlemen’s Ball hosted by the Linemann Family near Princeton, Nebraska. The Ball is a tremendous event targeted to raising funds for cancer research. If you’ve never been, I’d encourage you to put it on your list of things to do and see in Nebraska. Congratulations to the Linemann family and all those who helped make this year’s event a major success!

Not only is the Ball a fun time for a great cause, it’s a good way to connect with people from across the state. During the Ball I had the chance to talk to many farmers and ranchers. Not surprisingly, property taxes and concerns about profitability in agriculture were the top two issues on people’s minds. As margins in agriculture have tightened, the squeeze of higher property tax bills have only added more financial pressure to farm and ranch families. With property valuation notices hitting mailboxes in June its only added to the seriousness of the need to address this issue.

I don’t need to repeat the numbers, but I will. Over the last 10 years property taxes collected on agricultural land statewide have increased 176 percent. Commercial and residential property taxes have also climbed by 49 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Nebraska’s three-legged tax stool of property, income and sales tax is out of balance. Property taxes now account for 48 percent of total collections of the three, with income taxes at 32 percent and sales taxes at 20 percent of statewide collections.

We have to bring balance to our tax structure and alleviate the over-reliance on property taxes. As we head into the heat of the summer, I want you as a Farm Bureau member to know this when it comes to the property tax issue:

Farm Bureau will continue to lead the charge to fix this problem. This isn’t an easy issue, but it is not an impossible one either. There are numerous ideas and approaches to better balance the tax burden and alleviate the pressure on property taxes. We’ve offered solutions in the past and we’ll continue to do so. We’re fleshing out new ideas, even as I write this. We are committed to this issue.

We have expectations of the Legislature. There are good people in the Nebraska Legislature who are interested in making sound tax policy for Nebraskans. The Legislature is still our first best means to solve the property tax problem. As we’ve always done, we will bring ideas to the legislature and work together with Nebraska senators to find solutions. With that said, the Legislature needs to act. Kicking the can down the road won’t cut it. We’ll continue to do everything we can to work with senators to make progress in the legislative arena.

We’re willing to be patient, but there must be a final destination. Baseball analogies are often used to discuss the property tax problem. I continue to hear the terminology “bunts and singles” when it comes to fixes for property taxes. “Bunts and singles” will not solve the problem unless you string enough of them together to score runs and ultimately win. I’ve testified before the legislature that if it takes multiple years to solve this issue, we’re willing to do that. But there must be a clearly identified end goal, with a plan for how that is accomplished.

All Nebraskans, not just farmers and ranchers deserve better. They say a rising tide raises all ships. While our farm and ranch members have been hit the hardest by property tax increases, we know many Nebraskans share those concerns and they’ve relayed those to their elected leaders. Our solutions to balance the property tax burden will work for all Nebraskans.

Doing nothing is not an option. I know you want this issue addressed. Many of you have reached out to the team at Nebraska Farm Bureau urging action. I also know some members are looking at alternatives beyond the legislature. As I said before, the legislature is our first best solution, but we are open to looking at all options to make the reforms needed to bring balance to our tax system.

As always, I want to thank you for being a Farm Bureau member. Farm Bureau exists to serve you and I always welcome your thoughts, input and ideas as we work together to address this critical issue.

 

Until Next Time,

Steve Nelson, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau

Sound Tax Policy isn’t Education’s Foe

steve corn head shotThere are two things I’m confident about when it comes to the beliefs of the majority of Nebraskans. One, we value education; whether it’s making sure we have high quality K-12 schools, or quality secondary education opportunities. Two, we believe in sound fiscal policy; including an appreciation for spending restraint and a balanced tax structure.

We don’t believe those two things have to be in conflict, but you might get that impression based on sentiment expressed by some in the education community as Farm Bureau has weighed in on the need for property tax and school funding reform. Farm Bureau’s calls for local spending restraint and property tax relief should not in any way be construed as adversarial to public education.

You know as well as I do that Nebraska Farm Bureau and its members value quality educational opportunities for Nebraska students. For decades, numerous members of our organization have given their time and talents to serve on local school boards, while many others have offered their service to Nebraska education as teachers and volunteers. Our members are proud to support their schools and their communities.

As I’ve said on many occasions, including testimony before the Legislature’s Revenue and Education Committees, how we as Nebraskans choose to fund schools is a separate and distinct question from whether we should provide quality educational opportunities for students.

We believe in quality education, but we also believe we must address the underlying imbalance in our tax structure that has led us to a point where property taxes carry the lion’s share of school funding. Nebraska is far outside the norm in terms of our reliance on property taxes when compared with other states. For example, the nationwide average contribution of property taxes for school funding is 32 percent. In Nebraska, it’s 51 percent.

Calls for reform are not an indictment of whether our schools are doing a good job, but rather an indictment of an imbalance in the way in which we fund schools in Nebraska and the over-reliance on property taxes to do so.

And make no mistake, Nebraskans want lower property taxes.

Over the last 10 years, (2005 to 2015) total statewide property tax collections for real property increased 66 percent, with property taxes levied on agricultural land increasing 176 percent, commercial property taxes 49 percent and residential property taxes 35 percent.

In 2015 alone, property tax collections increased statewide by six percent, a total increase of $216 million. That clearly outpaces the $204 million put into the state’s property tax credit program that was targeted to provide property tax relief.

We’re not getting ahead. We’re not even treading water.

To solve the property tax problem we as Nebraskans have to think bigger. We need visionary leadership. That’s the reason delegates at Nebraska Farm Bureau’s annual meeting adopted policy that seeks to set a limitation that no more than 40 percent of school spending could come from property taxes, bringing us closer to the national norm. The goal isn’t to harm education. The goal is to alleviate the pressure on property taxes and force the conversation that must take place about balancing the tax burden on Nebraskans. This is about fixing a problem that continues to be kicked down the road.

Those who believe that calls for property tax reductions and school funding reform are attacks on education, are simply missing the point.

We can work together to determine how much money it takes to provide adequate funding for schools. But, until we reform how we fund schools, there will continue to be undue pressure on property taxes.

There’s no question that re-balancing the tax burden and how we fund schools is challenging. But having the ability to problem solve and tackle these types of challenges is why we invest in education in the first place.

It’s time to think bigger on Nebraska tax policy. Reducing our over-reliance on property taxes to fund education is the right place to start.

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson

President

NEFB President Steve Nelson Testifies at Legislative Hearing About School Funding and Tax Issues

On Thursday, Nov. 12th, the Legislature’s Education and Revenue Committee held a joint public hearing to hear testimony on school funding in the state of Nebraska.  The hearing is part of joint interim studies being conducted by the Committees (LRs 332 & 344) on funding of public schools.   The Committees hope to make recommendations for improving the funding of schools to be discussed during the 2016 Legislative session.  Nebraska Farm Bureau was invited to testify before the Committees and urged the senators to undertake fundamental reform of school funding to reduce property taxes and improve taxpayer equity.

Watch NEFB President Steve Nelson’s testimony here.

Imbalance in Property Taxes Nothing to Be Proud Of

Steve Nelson1I recently had the opportunity to travel across Nebraska to visit with Farm Bureau members to talk about our efforts to secure property tax relief during the 2015 Legislative session. It was the first of what I hope will be several trips to connect with members on taxes and other key issues.

This particular trip started in Hastings and went west to Sidney. Along the way, I stopped to do several radio, television and newspaper interviews to explain why property taxes are such a point of concern for farm and ranch families and to outline what we believe are possible solutions to relieve a growing property tax problem.

It was a great experience, but a very real reminder that we have a lot of work to do in communicating the need for property tax relief, whether that be to members of the media or to our elected officials who will ultimately vote on key tax relief initiatives.

In making our case, I often point out that while property taxes are too high in general, they are particularly challenging for farmers and ranchers because of the nature of our business. Land is basic to farming or ranching. No occupation requires as much land as agriculture does. I talk about the fact that taxes on agriculture land have increased 162 percent since 2004, while residential and commercial land taxes during the same time have experienced considerably smaller increases.

I also point out that while farmers and ranchers represent less than three percent of our state’s population, we are now paying nearly one-third of the total property taxes collected statewide. A fact that clearly illustrates our statewide property tax burden is completely out of balance.

I’ve actually had some people (not farmers or ranchers) indicate to me that they don’t see a problem with so few people paying such a large portion of the property tax. I don’t understand that line of thinking and I’m not sure why any Nebraskans should be proud of a tax system that places the responsibility for the majority of funding for local government and schools on the backs of a small group of people. I guess the idea of equity in the state’s tax system wasn’t something these individuals cared about.

Having said that, it points out that we in agriculture have much work to do in explaining why property taxes are of such great concern. Nebraska Farm Bureau will continue to lead the way to find solutions that provide equity in our property tax system and tax relief to farm and ranch families.

Until next month,

Steve Nelson, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation