The Impact of Capital Gains Tax Changes on Farm Succession Planning

Headshot of Trent Klarenbach, founder of Klarenbach Research
Trent Klarenbach
June 1, 2024
A serene farm landscape at sunset, symbolizing the evolving nature of farm succession planning under new tax laws.
June 1, 2024
With the latest federal budget announcement, significant changes to capital gains taxation are set to reshape how farm families approach succession planning. This article delves into the implications of these changes, focusing on their impact on farm owners and their successors, providing vital insights for those navigating this new tax landscape.

The Changes to Capital Gains Taxation

The government's decision to increase the taxable portion of capital gains—from half to two-thirds for property and investments—marks a substantial shift in fiscal policy. This adjustment applies differently across various entities:

  • For Individuals: The new two-thirds rate applies only to capital gains exceeding $250,000, with gains up to this amount taxed at the previous rate.
  • For Corporations and Trusts: All capital gains are subject to the higher rate, presenting new challenges for structured farm succession plans.

Additionally, the lifetime capital gains exemption has been increased to $1.25 million and will continue to adjust with inflation, which might seem like a boon for some farm owners. However, this change comes with its complexities and necessitates careful financial planning and consultation with tax professionals.

An image of a new tax planning document.

Strategic Implications for Farm Families

Ryan Kehrig, a national leader in agriculture tax, emphasizes that while the new tax rules may not affect farms annually, their impact will be profound during key transitions, such as selling or divesting farm assets. Here's how:

  • Immediate Impacts: For those nearing the succession process, understanding these tax changes is crucial, especially if they plan to finalize transitions before the laws take effect in June 2024.
  • Long-Term Considerations: The tax increase on capital gains could significantly affect the financial calculations for both retiring farmers and the younger generation looking to take over.

Navigating Challenges for the Next Generation

The increased tax burden could complicate the buy-out processes, potentially leading to higher costs for the next generation of farmers. This aspect is especially poignant where parents need to secure retirement funds, possibly resulting in a heavier financial load on the successors.

Furthermore, the changes extend to capital gains within holding companies, often used to balance interests among farming and non-farming heirs. This scenario introduces additional layers of complexity and potential friction among family members involved in the succession.

A farming looking out over his crop at sunset.

Seeking Professional Guidance

The evolving tax regulations surrounding capital gains present both challenges and opportunities for farm succession planning. Given the complexities involved, it is advisable for farm families to seek guidance from experienced tax professionals to navigate these changes effectively.

In an ever-changing fiscal environment, staying informed and proactive is key to ensuring a smooth transition and securing a stable financial future for both current and future generations of farmers.