Splitting the Farm
March 7, 2012 NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today released a publication telling the stories of two Tennessee farmers who could be harmed by the state’s onerous death tax. The publication, titled Splitting the Farm, shows how the death tax damages the state’s economy and could put many family farms out of business. Roger Blackwood’s mother deserted him when he was just 10, and three years later he ran away from his abusive, alcoholic father. For months, he was homeless on the streets of Nashville until he was taken in and taught to read. He went on to start dozens of businesses despite suffering from dyslexia, and 48 years ago, he purchased a farm in Robertson County. While Roger loves to farm, he is afraid that when he passes away, his children will have to sell off major portions of the land just to pay the state death tax. David Mitchell has spent his entire life working on the farm his grandfather purchased. Due to the hard work of David and his family, they have grown the farm from 125 acres to over 500 today. Despite spending significant sums of money to hire attorneys and estate planners, David is still concerned about his ability to keep the farm in the family once his elderly father passes away. Had it not been for David’s sweat equity, the farm would not even be large enough to be subject to the tax. This shows that Tennessee’s death tax truly is unjust. The state legislature is considering repealing or reducing the tax, which brings in less than one percent of state revenues. The death tax severely weakens Tennessee’s economy because it drives investments to other states that do not impose the tax. Those that remain in Tennessee and wind up paying the tax are those that can least afford it. As Splitting the Farm exposes, many farmers like Roger and David are faced with selling off all or some of their land just to pay the death tax bill. In many cases, the farms have been in the family for generations, yet the state’s tax policy will lead to sprawling acres being chopped up and developed. The Beacon Center released the publication as part of its “Faces of Freedom” series, which aims to highlight the personal stories of Tennesseans to show the consequences of bad law and bad policy. A copy of the publication will be provided to each member of the General Assembly as they debate whether to end the state death tax during this legislative session. An electronic version of Splitting the Farm is available online at: http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/Splitting-the-Farm.pdf. The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. The Center is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing policymakers and concerned citizens with timely solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.