Income Tax Changes for 2019

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Contributed by Charles Brown, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, crbrown@iastate.edu

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law December 22, 2017. Among many changes, it created new tax brackets for 2018 thru 2025. It also eliminated the deduction for personal exemptions and raised the standard deduction in 2019 to $12,200 for single fliers, $24,400 for married filing jointly and $18,350 for head of households. Keep in mind that most of the changes in TCJA end in 2025 and move back to pre-2018 tax law.

Table 1. Tax Brackets and Rates, 2019

Section 179 Expense election was one of the changes that was made permanent. In 2019, this is now $1,020,000 and the phase-out starts at $2,550,000. On Iowa returns, the maximum amount is $100,000 and the phase-out starts at $400,000. In 2020, Iowa couples with the Federal amounts.

One of the other major changes in the TCJA was the repeal of like-kind exchange treatment for traded personal property. Under old law when a farmer traded machinery, the farmer depreciated the difference paid plus any remaining basis on the item traded in and no taxes were due. Under TCJA when a farmer trades machinery, the trade is considered a sale in the amount the dealer allowed for the trade-in, triggering ordinary taxable gain, and the farmer gets to depreciate the full purchase price of the machinery received. If the farmer does not want to pay tax on the gain of the trade-in, they are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset the taxable gain. Iowa did not couple with the Federal change in 2018, but maintained the old like-kind exchange rules. In 2019, for Iowa returns, farmers may use the old rule for like-kind exchanges or use the new Federal rule. In 2020, Iowa will couple with the Federal rule.

If farmers are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset gains from trading machinery, there can be other consequences. Excessive accelerated methods of depreciation reduce net Schedule F income, possibly taking it down to $0 or maybe even a negative situation. IRA and other retirement plan contributions are based on earned income (Schedule F). The deduction for self-employed health insurance is based on Schedule F net income. Contributions for self-employment tax are based on Schedule F net income. Reducing Schedule F income affects money available for retirement planning and other “above the line” deductions taken on the 1040. Also new in 2018 was the new “post card” 1040 Form that also had multiple schedules attached to it. After numerous complaints, there is another new 1040 Form for 2019. This one is a combination of the old 1040 and the 1040 from 2018. Maybe eventually they will get it right. I am not sure I can stand more simplification in our tax code.

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Pricing drought damaged silage

Contributed by William Edwards, extension economist

Corn that has suffered severe drought damage is sometimes harvested as silage instead of as grain. It can still have significant feed value if harvested at the right stage. See the article “Alternatives for Drought-damaged Corn—Grain Crop or Forage” for harvesting recommendations. Any damaged acres that are covered by crop insurance should be viewed by an adjuster and released by the insurance company before harvesting takes place.

Grain producers may be willing to sell to the corn standing in the field, to be harvested by the livestock producer or a custom operator. The buyer and the seller must agree on a selling price.  The seller would need to receive a price that would give at least as good a return as could be received from harvesting the corn as grain. The buyer would need to pay a price that would not exceed the feeding value of the corn.  Within that range the price can be negotiated.

One ton of normal, mature standing corn silage at 60% to 70% moisture can be valued at about 10 times the price of a bushel of corn. For a $3.50 corn price, a ton of silage would be worth about $35 per ton. However, drought stressed corn may have only 5 bushels of grain per ton of silage instead of the normal 6 to 7 bushels. A value of about 9 times the price of corn would more appropriate. For silage with little grain content, a factor of 8 times the price of corn can be used.

If the crop is sold after being harvested and transported, those costs must be added to that value, typically $5 to $10 per ton, depending on whether it is done by a custom operator or the buyer, and the distance it is hauled. A buyer would only consider the variable costs for harvesting and hauling, whereas a custom operator would need to recover fixed costs, as well.

More information on valuing forage in the field, including an electronic spreadsheet for estimating a value for corn silage, for both the buyer and the seller, is available from Ag Decision Maker.

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Videos provide financial tips, explain mediation

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, highlights new Iowa State University Extension and Outreach videos for today’s current farm financial situation.

With commodity prices low and projected to stay that way over the next couple years, farmers have begun to feel the pinch in their pocketbooks. This has made managing the finances of the farm that much more important. With this in mind, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has released two videos that deal with the current farm financial situation and what can be done to alleviate financial pressure.

I host the first video, titled Tips for Managing Margins. It offers ideas for how to weather the next few years of low crop prices like protecting capital, reviewing production costs and renegotiating loans.

The second video, called Understanding Farm Mediation, was created in partnership with Iowa Mediation Service and is about the process of mediation. Mediation is an option available to farmers as they work with their creditors to find a mutually beneficial solution to a delinquent secured agricultural debt of $20,000 or more.

This short video provides tips to help farmers better understand what mediation is and when it may be necessary. It describes the process and provides a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for mediation.

While mediation is available should it be needed, ISU Extension and Outreach also provides these financial resources to help farmers create a financial plan for their operation:

  • The Iowa Concern Hotline provides free legal information to both rural and urban Iowans. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-447-1985.
  • The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation provides information about the application of developments in agricultural law and taxation.
  • Farm Financial Associates are available to provide a no-cost look at a farm’s complete financial situation.
  • The Beginning Farmer Center helps inform and support those who are getting started in farming. It also works with established farmers on succession planning for when they leave the industry.

How accurate and useful is the ISU Cash Rent Survey?

Alejandro Plastina, extension economist, explores results of a follow-up survey on the accuracy and usefulness of the ISU Cash Rental Rate Survey.

plastina_alejandro_photoCash rents, land values, and rates for custom work in Iowa are topics that usually attract lots of attention from a number of stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Even more so when the economic outlook for the sector is particularly promising or particularly discouraging. So it comes as no surprise that the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey is received with different degrees of acceptance by different groups depending on the economic outlook. This year we requested feedback from the online respondents to the Cash Rent Survey about the accuracy and usefulness of the survey results.

Who responded?

The Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2016 Survey had 1,585 responses, of which 320 responses were submitted through the online questionnaire (the rest were mailed using USPS). All online respondents were invited to participate in a short follow up survey about their perceptions of the Cash Rent Survey. One hundred and forty-five respondents completed the follow up survey. All of them reported being familiar with the survey (figure 1).

Comparing the participation of different categories of participants in this opinion poll versus the corresponding participation of the same categories in the Cash Rent Survey (figure 2), farm operators accounted for the same share (47%); but agricultural lenders, professional farm managers and Realtors had a greater share (21% vs. 14%, and 16% vs. 12%, respectively); while landowners had a smaller share (15% vs. 25%).

Figure 1. How familiar are you with the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey?Figure 2. How would you classify yourself?

How accurate are survey results?

Ninety-one percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately, very, or extremely accurately (figure 3). Forty-seven percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very or extremely accurately.

The most prevalent response among farm operators, landowners, and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very accurately, followed closely by moderately accurately (figure 4). The most prevalent response among professional farm managers and Realtors was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately accurately.

Figure 3. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect typical cash rents by county?Figure 4. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect typical cash rents by county, by type of respondent?

The accuracy of the Cash Rent Survey in reflecting annual changes in typical cash rents by county was perceived to be better than the accuracy in reflecting their levels. Ninety-six percent of the respondent indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county moderately, very, or extremely accurately (figure 5). Fifty-seven percent indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county very or extremely accurately.

The most prevalent response among farm operators, landowners, and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very accurately, followed by moderately accurately (figure 6). The most prevalent response among professional farm managers and Realtors was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately accurately, followed by very accurately as a close second.

Figure 5. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county?Figure 6. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county, by type of respondent?

How useful are survey results?

Ninety-seven percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey was at least moderately useful to them (figure 7). Seventy-six percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey was very or extremely useful to them.

The most frequent answer among farm operators and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey was extremely useful, followed by very useful and in a distant third place moderately useful (figure 8).

The most frequent answer among landowners was that the Cash Rent Survey was very useful, followed by extremely and moderately useful.

Professional managers and Realtors indicated most frequently that the Cash Rent Survey was moderately useful, followed by very and extremely useful.

Figure 7. How useful is the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey to you? Figure 8. How useful is the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey to you, by type of respondent?

Summary  

Although this opinion poll about the usefulness and accuracy of the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey was not designed to be representative of all stakeholders in Iowa, it shows that most farmers, landowners, agricultural lenders, professional farm managers and Realtors, and other agricultural professionals that participate in the survey find it useful and accurate.

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