Taxes, crop insurance claims, and the related deskwork

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This is the tax preparation season and many farm decisions were pushed out of 2012 into 2013 because of the uncertainties regarding taxes.  Congress was also uncertain, and as it turns out, so was the Internal Revenue Service. 

The IRS does not have many admirers, but that agency's operations must have come to a near halt while the Congress and White House negotiated over the "fiscal cliff" and all of the pertinent tax rules and ramifications.  Farmers could not do much year end tax planning, and neither could the Internal Revenue Service which has feverishly had to re-program its computer software.  And that has lead to a change that affects every farmer.

Word came late Friday that farmers will be able to push back their income tax filing to April 15, instead of the normal date of March 1.  That delay will come without any penalty, but you have to make a request to do so.  The Internal Revenue Service wants you to file Form 2210-F, and then no questions will be asked about the delayed filing.

The IRS had to push the pause button on its operations while the Congress and the While House negotiated changes to the tax code as part of the fiscal cliff episode.  Since farmers are first out of the gate to have to file their tax returns, the IRS says its computers would not be ready due to changes in farm depreciation schedules.

 During those negotiations on financial issues, which included a 9 month extension of the Farm Bill, many livestock producers were hoping to get some type of financial relief due to the drought.  It had been promised by Congress, but it did not happen.  However, livestock producers will be eligible for tax relief due to the drought.

Any livestock that had to be sold early in 2012 due to lack of pasture, forage, or high prices of feed—which resulted from the drought—will be able to defer that income to the 2013 tax year.  If the drought interrupted your normal schedule of livestock sales, that is a legitimate reason for income deferral.

Crop producers can also defer income from a crop insurance indemnity—if they are a cash basis tax payer, and normally report income in the year following production.  However, if your crop insurance indemnity check arrived in 2012 and was the result of a revenue protection crop insurance policy—that income must be reported as 2012 income, or it must be broken out to show what was revenue related and what was yield related.

Crop insurance will be the primary safety net for agriculture when Congress resumes its deliberations on the Farm Bill, and some opponents are ready to say it should be cut way back as a result of high indemnity payments being issued to farmers.  The indemnity checks are at the $12 billion mark and many claims from Illinois and Indiana have not yet been paid.

However, taxpayers are not on the line for that amount, despite what is reported in the media and by critics of the crop insurance program.  While the USDA administers the program, Art Barnaby,  Kansas State University risk management specialist, has calculated the government only has about $3 billion in exposure, and crop insurance companies will have to pay the remainder out of their reserve funds.  He says many of those companies may think twice about writing crop insurance policies in the Cornbelt.

We will have to see how all of that plays out during Farm Bill testimony on renewing the crop insurance program.  Final details will not be known until later in the spring after USDA determines the amount of payments due to farmers who subscribed to county-based crop insurance policies.

And any farmers whose agent reports they will have indemnity payments in excess of $200,000 are reminded that it will not be paid until a three year audit is completed.  Those are likely holding up many of the payments, and since many farmers are in that category, USDA will have many employment opportunities for auditors.

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