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I have family that farms in Iowa and I also worked in the agriculture industry there for a while after leaving the military. One thing that increases the stress on the farmers is the way they avoid income taxes at all costs so they rarely save any of the profits from good years to help them float during the bad years. This is all anecdotal but I have personally talked with several farmers that would rather buy new equipment they say do not even need than pay the taxes to take the money as income. This mindset causes them to experience a huge amount of stress every season. The farmers would talk about struggling, but have a brand new semi-tractor sitting in a barn unused 10 months out of the year.

>One thing that increases the stress on the farmers is the way they avoid income taxes at all costs so they rarely save any of the profits from good years to help them float during the bad years.

I'm from Iowa and a family member does lots of farm bankruptcies here. This is definitely a thing. Farmers buy new pickup trucks in lieu of showing a profit. Pair that in with land purchases at 7k+/acre and the saying "the neighbors land will never come up for sale again while I'm alive" and you've got a good mix for very high stress situations.

The concept of farmland being "for sale" at all seems bizarre. This isn't someone's home. Raw land is effectively always for sale, just contact the owner and make an unsolicited offer.

Is this just a psychological issue of people being attached to certain parcels or is there some other factor?

I'm guessing you didn't grow up on a farm.

There will always be some farmland effectively for sale; but there will also be other farmland which will never be for sale, no matter what the cost. The latter are generally "homeplaces", which have been in the family for generations. Heritage, blood, sweat, and years of hard work bind you to the soil, the land. It's more than an emotional attachment--it's almost spiritual, almost core identity.

It's an essential part of you and who you are.

It is amazing to see the effect of this in the wild - the land owns the people and it is basically impossible to sell. I have seen people who own land worth 10s of million of dollars live like paupers because they are so tied to the land.

I have wondered how much this effect is genetically built into us - there really is something different about how people view farmland compared to every other asset.

Farmland is essentially a complete livelihood, whereas other land is just a place to park a house.

Yes, but so is a business and it doesn't seem to induce the same type of ownership.

To be honest, I'm willing to bet that the sense of history you get with a multi-generational family farm, probably is matched in other multi-generational family businesses as well.

(However, most businesses don't have the option of the ultimate fallback of subsistence farming if times got really rough. :) )

A business supplies you with currency to trade for the basic necessities. A farm can provide those directly.

Or a wind turbine.

Beautifully said.

You can make an unsolicited offer to homeowners too. In both cases, something being "not for sale" means the price should be higher because there are large transition costs with unexpected moves.

No way. Land has low carrying cost and people will sit on it for years to speculate or hold neighbors hostage.

Part of this is that a lot of states have agricultural exemptions or lower rates for farmland. Even if it's not effectively farmed. Or McMansions in the countryside exploiting the same law via what my dad called "Noah's Ark farms" (just two of every animal).

So yes, if you want to game the system and sit on land, there's little tax incentive to sell it.

In the UK this is doubly true, because you also receive your subsidy from the EU for owning that land. In fact in many ways farming it less efficiently gets you more as you can qualify for environmental uplifts for using less fertilizer and keeping bigger headlands and hedges.

It's worth metioning that this distribution system is decided by the UK government (or possibly Eng/Scot etc governements). The EU allocates subsidy to the member nations according to one system (not accounting for e.g. bigger hedges), which allocate subsidy to farmer/business according to their own system. It is entirely possible for the UK government, within the EU, to allocate money to farms as an insurance system against bad years, or to encourage profitability at all costs, or in another way.

In theory, does land appreciate at the risk-free rate? Or does holding land mean that you lose the opportunity cost of what you could have otherwise done with the money?

No, there is lots of risk in land, particularly if you borrow money to buy it!

People have different risk evaluation and time horizons. If you are sitting on a lot of capital, it’s a no brainer to buy land when financial bubbles pop and leveraged owners need to unload cheap.

Not only do you have a long term inflation hedge, but it’s real property, which means you can borrow against it to get cash without paying taxes via dividends or sale.

Iowa is great for investors like this because the whole state is just a big corn factory. The government tries to keep commodity prices less volatile, so you can project lease income with some precision using the value of corn.

> 7k+/acre

Assuming this is pure farm land (no premium for possible annexation or commercial development), is that not an absolutely batshit insane price? I'm no expert but that seems at least 4x what is reasonable.

That's land in the middle of nowhere. If you're near a city you can get a nice premium as the suburbs expand. 4x is a bit extreme (been a long time since it was that much). But it's expensive.

In the middle of nowhere there have been quite a number of land sales with $10k+/acre in the past handful of years.

Farmland prices have been kinda crazy over the last 5-10 years.

As a quick example of some math:

* Rent prices for farmland in Iowa [1] averaged $230/acre in 2016

* Yield per acre for corn is 203 in 2016

* Price per bushel averaged $9.27 [3]

Throwing averages into the mix, $1,882 revenue per acre. Without any expenses, farmers could be looking at >5 year time to break even at a 10k purchase price as opposed. Tons of farmers are paper millionaires simply because of the land they own. 100 acres of 10k land gets you there. 640 acres is 1 square mile (much of the state is on a 1x1 mile grid of gravel roads).

And of course I found most of the work already done after I found a bunch of sources. [4] has some more detailed numbers.

[1] http://dreamdirt.com/blog/2017-iowa-farmland-cash-rent-rates...

[2] https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a1-12.pdf

[3] https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a2-11.pdf

[4] https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a1-20.pdf

Wow! I wish I could have gotten that price for my corn last year.

You quoted the price for beans, not corn. Corn averaged 3.40 over the year (currently, around $3.05 cash, not CBOT). That means it was about $640/acre for income. And that's assuming 203 bushels for all farmland. 180 is a better rule of thumb.

Of course, when a bag of seed corn is selling for $275-300+...not to mention input costs of equipment, fuel, fertilizer, labor (including yours), land (purchase or rent), etc...

Oh crap you're right! The price seemed high, but I grew up in the city so I don't track it much - just whenever I catch it on the local radio station.

The numbers were way better than I remembered, so I kept trying to figure out where the costs came in...I wasn't finding it.

Thanks for the correction.

As someone who obviously knows the business, what's your take on the price of land, based on historic prices and on economics?

Just saw this.

As my late dad and other old timers said a few years ago, the price of land is tied to the price of corn. Land values (both purchase and cash rent) have fallen the past year or two from their high, slowly but steadily. From a pure numbers standpoint, land prices are still high relative to corn prices, I'd say about 2x as high as some historical years at this corn price (plus historical inflation). I'd like to see it down around $5K/acre in my area.

But there are other factors in the cost too, and that is how much people are willing to pay for land. And guys are still willing to pay for it at this level, although not as many as before. There's still profitability, if you play your cards right. But that's a whole other analysis.

That price per bushel is for soybeans, not corn. Soybean yields are much lower, like in the mid-50s to low 60s on average. The marketing year average price for corn in 2016 was $3.30. That cuts your revenue number to $670. With production expenses most farmers are lucky to break even right now.

What a strange world.....farmland prices in Canada are about a tenth of that, whereas if anything land prices for housing are typically at least double what they would be in the US (roughly adjusting for earning potential). Maybe we're just on opposite ends of a pendulum.

Canadian farmland has less potential value due to the reduced light and lower temperatures of the northern climate.

True, but 5 to 7 times difference, all things considered? That seems fairly unlikely.

With rent at $230/ac and land prices at $7k+, it's about a 3% annual return. So it's more like 30+ years to break even.

Assuming the land doesn't appreciate further. (and we are pretty sure it won't depreciate to nothing)

The 7k price would be for good land with quality soil and a high Corn Suitability Rating. But yes, 7k+ is certainly normal for Iowa. (The surrounding midwest states like MN, ND, IL and WI would be lower - in the 1-4k/acre price)

There has been some land in Iowa which has still sold for $9-10K/acre this year. Very good CSR. But it's definitely not the norm anymore. $7-8.5k/acre seems to be the range.

I have family that own and operate farms in Kansas and Iowa, and that's pretty much on point. Good quality farmland pretty easily goes at $6k an acre, with really high quality riverland going for up to $10k.

It is high, but typical. With rent around $200 an acre, land only generates around 3% annual cash flow at that price. And even that rate is killing farmers right now.

There is a more pressing reason that has pushed farmers to continually buy new equipment. Farm credit services pressures farmers into this practice.

When giving out a loan for operations, a farmer's ability to pay is heavily weighted on farmers having newer equipment. The excuse that I have heard for the bank to do this, is that the bank can't easily tell which farmers take better care of their equipment, thus favoring the newer equipment across the board.

The agents working directly with the farmers advocate for this, as there are internal incentives for making larger loans.

What kind of logic is that?? In my mind, those with the oldest equipment must necessarily be taking care of it, because if you don't take care of it then it won't survive long enough to be old.

But on the other hand, I see people driving antique beaters and doubt they have the capability or interest to manage any maintenance.

It isn't just a mindset, it is supported by their accountant. Because of the way depreciation works their long term income is higher by buying new equipment than paying taxes.

The busiest week for farm equipment dealers is the week between Christmas and new years. That is when their account calls them and says trading in some machine would reduce their tax bill by more than the payments! Assuming the trade in value is high enough of course.

Farmers are businessmen running a real business. They understand how to use all the loopholes written for them.

But this is not necessarily a good thing. If you don't need a new truck, buying that truck is worse than paying the taxes and getting some profit. The truck will be sitting there unused and it cannot be resold for the full price paid.

Especially when the truck depreciates so much. That's several thousand right there.

Yes, two comments up mentioned deprecation. Maybe you're forgetting that you can offset deprecation in your taxes for the next year?

Deduction, not credit. Deductions aren't nothing, but they're just a percentage. Good if you're already going to spend the money, or if it's close. But spending a dollar to save a fraction of one can bite you.

Once again, the accounts have already figure this out. Depreciation in terms of taxes does not me the loss of trade in value. I do not understand the tax code, I just know accountants do

Is it though? a new truck is going to be reliable and under warranty. A farmer cannot afford for his equipment to break. The truck being broke means that he cannot get fuel trailer to the equipment. That means that the tractors spend 2 hours every day driving back and forth to the fuel tanks on the farm to refuel - time that is not spent in the field. The truck being broke for just 2 days can cost the farmer more money than the entire cost of a new truck. (if storm wipes out any crop not harvested)

Maybe they don’t understand it so well if the end result is making less money... Every company could reduce taxes to zero by lowering prices and increasing costs, but somehow it doesn’t seem a good business plan in the long term.

Dumb question, as I am neither a farmer nor a businessperson, but is there a way for a farmer to set up, say, an LLC, which holds money from profitable years for use in unprofitable years, from which the farmer takes a steady salary each year?

LLC are pass-through entities. So, let's say you're a farmer, and you set up Farm, LLC, and then set up Profit, LLC. Profit LLC has to charge Farm LLC enough to eliminate the profits that Farm LLC generates. One way to do this is to have Profit LLC own the land, and Farm LLC pays Profit LLC a lease rate on the land that nicely eliminates the profit from Farm LLC.

This is all well and good, but now you've just shifted the profit to Profit LLC, and what to do with it there? If it's an LLC, whoever owns it has to pay income tax on it. So if you, the farmer, own Profit LLC, you're still paying taxes on it. If Farm LLC owns it, then the profit just goes back to Farm LLC, undoing the whole purpose.

So maybe you decide to make Profit LLC a C-Corp instead, so it's Profit, Inc., with the idea that now it's no longer a pass-through entity. But now you have to pay corporate income tax on it, even if you don't distribute it. Then, when you distribute it someday, you have to pay regular income tax on it again.

Some companies (such as Toys 'R Us) used to get around this by having "Profit LLC" be a company that owns the brand and licenses it to the retail company, to eliminate the retail company's profits. They then locate Profit LLC in a low/no-tax country such as the Cayman Islands. It's not clear how this would work for a farmer, however, because there's not really a brand to license, and any company that owned the land would still fall under US tax jurisdiction.

Interesting. I think it could be argued that some small-ish amount could be paid for the brand. Developing relationships with buyers is not an insignificant part of ranching and farmers, and you could probably justify that as a 10k/year expense.

(Not a lawyer, not a tax preparer.)

How do you pay income tax on income not received isn't that the point of having a company to allow it to build up reserves and don't US REITS work that way. Uk REITS and IT's certainly do

The US tax system is really insane some times

Corps have to pay taxes on profit.

Or you could just pay your goddamn taxes and have savings in the bank just like everybody else?

You mean just like everybody else but excluding big corporations and wealthy individuals?

Are you claiming that a majority of large corporations don't pay income taxes?

Is it even 5%?

It's above 95%. And the claim is not that they don't "pay income taxes" period, but that they don't pay their full income taxes based on actual income, using all kinds of legal, semilegal, and even illegal, schemes.

Sure, income is revenue minus expenditures so the easiest way to avoid income (and income taxes) is to just spend everything you make.

Which is what the parent of this thread was saying.

The consequence is that in bad times, the company has to borrow (if it can) or goes bankrupt. Which happens often. We don't generally shed tears over this kind of thing, but this story points out the human tragedy that passes when individuals follow the same strategy.

Personally I kinda feel a little meh about the subject. My heart goes out to every struggling business(wo)man - it's hard to make it on your own. But farmers are especially insulated against market forces by a giant morass of subsidies and land use regulations. They're already getting a much bigger handout than they deserve.

>Personally I kinda feel a little meh about the subject. My heart goes out to every struggling business(wo)man - it's hard to make it on your own. But farmers are especially insulated against market forces by a giant morass of subsidies and land use regulations. They're already getting a much bigger handout than they deserve.

Smaller businesses yes.

Big businesses get even more subsidies than farmers -- and not just subsidies.

I think the claim might be something similar, but not quite that extreme. I don't think it strains credulity to think that the majority of large corporations take advantage of loopholes to drastically reduce their taxes.

> large corporations take advantage of loopholes

Of course they do. They are using legal means to reduce their taxes. Why wouldn't they.

Would you decline your mortgage interest deduction, your solar energy or EV deduction, etc. so you could claim you are paying your "fair" share? Go ahead -- nothing is stopping you.

Being intentionally obtuse about the use of the word "fair" in that context doesn't help you prove your point to anyone who disagrees with you.

"Fair" is so subjective in the context of taxation it's virtually meaningless. You can't assume other people share the same assumptions rolled up into the word.

It is not that they are taking advantage of existing loopholes. They actively lobby to create new loopholes that will enable more "legal" tax evasion.

Yeah, and large corps totally don't lobby politicians to keep those loopholes open or create new ones. Besides, sometimes legal is enough and sometimes it justifies not buying their product, which is also legal.

Right now there are hundreds of billions of corporate "profits" sitting offshore that can't be brought back into the US because of tax avoidance. If Congress does something to soften the blow, corporations will re-patriate those dollars and put them to better use.

There are ~20 huge companies each year that pay literally zero taxes [1] (that's for this year, you can go back and find a similar article every year). The lucky ones who manage to hit zero shuffle around every year. The rest of them pay various fractions of their tax rate. Corporate tax on large corporations as a proportion of the taxes collected is the smallest it has ever been in US history.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-10/ten-thing...

Yes, that's what the parent means.

Savings!?!...pfft this is America. If you are not in debt how can you buy a house, send your kids to college, take care of the families medical expenses and buy everyone new iPhones for Christmas? Savings he says! What madness!

"Someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly."

Paul Graham, The Acceleration of Addictiveness

There are financial instruments for this, different insurances and such. Not an LLC exactly but there are ways to do it and there are products you can buy to do just that, annuities and different income yielding investments. If you’ve got issues with any form of taxes due to your culture, you’re not likely a good candidate or disciplined enough to accept these kinds of instruments. Fundamentally it means you have to make less during the great years to pay yourself during the bad years.

It has also been my observation that there is a sort of victim mentality that many farmers embrace, they can be legitimate multimillionaires but would rather be seen as poor and bullied by the banks, government and elites.

Almost all of the farms that I dealt with were incorporated.

Wouldn't that just make the overall tax burden worse? You'd have to pay corporate taxes on the farm profits, then pay income taxes on the salary.

An LLC doesn't pay corporate taxes. It just passes profits or losses to shareholders proportionally and are taxed at the individual level.


Getting extremely creative, one might run a surprisingly unprofitable farm, while paying one's self minimum wage to operate the farm, single-handedly.

Getting creative, of course... But you know, a legitimate business would never operate like this, right?

They wouldn't take such a "subjective" point of view, when interpreting what are typically held as "objective" values and facts with only one single interpretation of The Truth, right?

Oh, wait...


I don't think so. I think LLC's allow one to pass through profits without double taxation. C corps, I believe, are the type that suffer from double taxation. Correct me if I am wrong though.

Salaries are a deductible expense for any business entity, so that money is never taxed twice by any reckoning.

The debate about double taxation of corporate profits relates to taxation of dividends, which are neither exempt nor deductible from a business' taxable income. Because shareholders are one and the same as the corporation according to some strains of legal and economic reasoning, by taxing dividends you've taxed the shareholders' profits twice.

If you control a corporation, you could achieve the same tax treatment as pass-through entities merely by paying yourself a salary instead of dividends. But if you did that, pass-through entities are easier because there are fewer formalities involved. The real gripe is that because dividends are taxed at a flat 15-20%, paying yourself in tax-preferred dividends is a tantalizing prospect but-for the supposed double taxation "problem".

The debate is admittedly a little more nuanced when discussing passive investments, but that's a different context than family farms.

You are correct. LLCs don't pay federal business income taxes. An LLC can retain earnings inside of the company but the members are still going to be taxed individually as if the earnings had been paid out to them. US S-corps work in a similar way: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employe...

No, because LLCs have to close their books every year and distribute any profits or losses to their members. You can't keep an untaxed rainy day fund in them.

Edit: Yes, I meant distribute for taxation purposes (K1 form), not actually transfer the funds

Not true at all. An LLC passes through these things for tax purposes only. Each owner is taxed on their pro-rata share of the business’ income offset by its losses, but the business doesn’t have to distribute anything at all. It’s common to distribute at least enough to cover those taxes but it’s never normally required by state or federal law.

Edit: you can’t keep an untaxed rainy day fund, that’s true. If you keep cash in the business from one year and use it on expenses the following, you deduct those expenses for the year they occurred. If that incurs a net operating loss you can carry that loss backwards or forwards if you want.

What if I take sell $100 product through LLC and book it as profit, pay taxes on it and after that, the customer files a chargeback. Where will the chargeback fees plus the original amount come from?

Your scenario seems implies that the original charge and the chargeback happen in different tax years, because if it was the same tax year, the chargeback would just invalidate the original charge.

In the cross-tax-year case, you pay the chargeback from the historical profits you have been booking from the LLC and book it as a business expense in the current tax year.

If you are running an LLC with zero cash backup to handle such situations, there could be a problem with the business model.

> The farmers would talk about struggling, but have a brand new semi-tractor sitting in a barn unused 10 months out of the year.

Your business having a illiquid depreciating asset that is required for the business to function can still be struggling. You can't eat a combine, you can't trade it away.

This is usually solved with coops owning the equipment and time sharing it to distribute the costs among the coop participants.

Farmers are indentured servants to the commodities markets, the land owner's they rent their land from, and John Deere.

I am not talking about a combine, I can understand the need for having your own combine during harvest. I am talking about a brand new fully optioned Peterbilt Semi-tractor, or buying a new pickup each year.

Having your own semi is very important during harvest: your combine will fill up in 15 minutes. That means every 15 minutes you need to unload it. 2 combines worth of grain is as much as your can haul in a semi (because of road weight restrictions). When the farmer is harvesting they don't want to stop: every delay is a chance that a storm latter will destroy the rest of the crop. Farmers often hard hauling to a elevator 20 minutes away where there is a 20 minute line to dump. As a result it isn't unusual for a farmer to need 2 semis for every combine.

Now you can rent semis, but it isn't cheap. For a farmer the rental company will look at it as a semi that won't be rented for 10 months so they charge for it.

At least for my family's farm in OK, a lot of the labor moves and takes the equipment with them. They move north to south with the season and the farm owners don't have to own as much equipment (in our case, none of us are farmers and haven't been for a few generations so a different situation). The farm manager still farms his own land, but he uses this same labor and their equipment with own a little of his own for tending during the growing season (the most labor and equipment intensive parts are harvest and planting).

Point being, the expensive equipment that is effectively being rented (with the labor in our case) isn't sitting idle most of the year. It's being used in different areas.

That is also a common way to do it. I know of farmers who own all their own equipment. I know of farmers who hire everything done. Both are very valid and correct ways to do things. There are different tradeoffs involved in both.

Tesla Semis owned by a coop would be killer for this use case, with charging facilities at the elevator. Very similar to the runs Tesla is going to use them for from their lithium evap pond partner in NV and the Gigafactory.

How does that solve the problem that "all the farmers" need it at the same time of year, and thus one shared one isn't enough? What makes a Tesla Semi notably better than a conventional one?

Doesn't solve the contention issue by itself, but a reduction in maintenance costs (million mile warranty) and running costs make the shared coop model more tenable. Sorry I wasn't clear in my original post!

Funny fact, Tesla wanted to use a grain trailer at the presentation but couldn't find a pristine looking one.

Like clockwork.

Is this for philosophical reasons about taxes and government? Or is it just a big chunk of money they're trying to save?

I think if anything it can be traced to a fundamental misunderstanding about how fractions work (and less glibly, basic personal finance). Choosing to spend $150,000 on things you objectively do not need in order to not have to write a $30,000 check to the IRS and put $120,000 in the bank for next year is not a rational decision for all but the most extreme anti-government/anti-tax ideologies. It's the very definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I agree with you that such a strategy is not optimal but it is not quite how you describe it to be.

In the mind of the farmer:

* $150,000 tractor: something that has value (not easy to calculate, but a $150k tractor has a value above zero, even if not brand new) and utility.

* $30,000 to the IRS: money that I will never see again. Literally thrown away money.

Option number 1 is very tempting.

The problem with that is that its only a $150,000 tractor until you drive it off the lot. I would be if the day after you bought it you are lucky if it is a $120,000 tractor.

Averseness to government is taxation is so engrained in some country it is almost genetic...and it leads to utterly bad thinking by individuals.

I suspect this isn't only averseness to taxation. Loss aversion is a well known human behavior, and when you have to write out a huge check to the government at the end of the year instead of having it taken out of your paycheck automatically, I could def see this kicking in pretty strongly.

Maybe we are not doing a good enough job of promoting civic duty, including payment of taxes? After all those taxes are used mostly for Medicare, Medicaid and the Military, all of which seem like worthy causes to pay for right? Not including State and Local taxes used for more immediate local functions, of course.

Personally I'm fine with Medicare and Medicaid but what I'm not so convinced is worthy is an endless series of overseas wars, 4000 U.S. bases, 800 more bases in 80 countries, $1.4 trillion for F-35s of controversial effectiveness, another trillion for nuclear weapon modernization, and several more trillion that's unaccounted for because the Pentagon has never been audited.




I lean liberal but a significant portion of my family is conservative.

Their thinking with regards to taxes is that it's spent on one of the following:

- Welfare, which is supposedly rampant with fraud to the point that most people who are on welfare don't "need" it

- Unspecified government waste

Not that these don't exist- it's just that it's the majority of government spending, according to them.

If taxes are cut, they claim welfare will get cut, forcing people to find work, and that government will somehow cut their other wasteful spending while still managing to fund the necessities.

I live in suburban NJ, so it's a bit easier for me to see where my taxes go- police, fire, public transit, a handful of schools. But in rural America, where 911 response times can be around 30 minutes, there's no train to get to a nearby city, and there's only two schools in your town? It looks like that money vanished.

Welfare is welfare but then we're calling welfare welfare. The F35, on the other hand, is another form of welfare except that it's patriotic welfare.

Do they know that 20 billion goes to farm subsidies? I would guess that they don't mind that type of welfare.

> Maybe we are not doing a good enough job of promoting civic duty, including payment of taxes?

If you're a strict old-school limited govt jeffersonian type, as many farmers are, fighting income taxes and avoiding paying into federally mandated systems is your civic duty..

not saying I agree with either side - but pointing out that notions of 'civic duty' are not so cut-and-dried

>all of which seem like worthy causes to pay for right

Just because something is worth doing does not mean you can throw money at it with no regard to efficiency.

Tractors are not cars. While they do loose value by not being "new", the ratio is MUCH smaller than for cars.

They have an hour meter for a reason. This is really what people use to tell if it is new.

Of course, but then you've now got $30,000 in depreciation toward next year's taxes!

Farmers often take 100% depreciation on a new purchase. So for tax purposes they lost 150k and do not have an asset worth 150k sitting around.

Now if they sell the tractor they have to pay taxes on the full sale price as profit since it was previously worth zero.

Which, because of their mindset about taxes, hurts the resale market for tractors and allows manufacturers to overprice new sales.

I wonder how they see taxes as thrown away? Yes, government is inefficient. And corrupt. But you do need roads. And bridges. And law enforcement. And even military protection, even if it seems far away and remote from your farm.

Not to mention $20 billion a year in farm subsidies.

only if you accept them.

many farmers dont.

also: these are not distributed evenly (see also agribusiness)

Many rural areas in the US are heavily neglected; There are roads that haven't seen any upkeep in a decade and have police response times that are over an hour long. A lot of farmers feel that they pay into the system but get only a minuscule fraction back.

Rural areas in the US are heavily subsidized by urban areas (which is not inherently bad, but the perception that money flows the other way is a big political problem), especially when it comes to social services such as healthcare, disability payments, welfare, etc., but also if you just look at basic infrastructure like roads, sometimes disguised as regulatory requirements that private infrastructure providers maintain some baseline service everywhere. The issue is that providing high levels of service to sparsely populated places is very expensive. Of course many states are also doing a poor job of basic infrastructure maintenance statewide, but that's a different problem.

Which is why you get the Lega Nord in Italy and the Catalan nationalists who object to subsidising the poorer southern parts of there counties.

Yes, a lot of this can be mismanagement at a state level. If you don't like what you're getting on a state or federal level, vote, campaign, cause a ruckus, etc.

This has everything to do with the fundamental physical fact that it's hard to provide services at very low population densities. I live in a city that has low single digit emergency response times. In order to get that out in rural farmland you would need to collocate a police and fire station with every single dwelling. Not gonna happen.

Correct, but that doesn't change the fact that when most people think about taxes they think of them paying for roads, schools, and emergency services. All lacking in rural areas. This creates the cognitive dissonance against taxes among those folk.

Those farmers are deluded. Their roads cost far more in upkeep then they return in economic benefit and if the farmers had to pay for their own roads they would be nothing more than dirt paths and remain blanketed by several feet of snow all winter long.

And if the people who have to use those roads are ok with roads like that why should they pay taxes so the state can turn around and use those taxes to pay for pavement they don't need?

This is a disgusting perspective. The civilization they live in is bankrolled by taxes. The TV they watch, electricity they use, everything they purchase, the customers that purchase their crops... All of this is possible because people pay taxes for the greater good of society.

There isn't anything wrong with tax avoidance.

Additionally some debatably large portion of tax money is wasted or spent on things you completely disagree with, no matter what your political perspective.

I don't doubt that they may think that, but it's a fundamentally flawed line of reasoning. The upkeep of your immediate area is not the only benefit of those taxes. Consider the road system that takes whatever goods they are growing and distributes it to the end consumer. They are only able to make a living growing what they do within this system because the system as a whole functions.

Those road cost $100k per mile to repave. They get beaten to hell with heavy equipment rolling over them all the time so their life is reduced. I doubt farmers even pay enough taxes to cover just the roads.

unlike the 'real products' us software developer types produce far exceeding the value of the houses, cars, food, etc. that we consume..

Aside from military protection, that is a list of things largely irrelevant to people who live in rural areas. It's money to be confiscated from them and used to prop up societies to which they have little to no connection.

It's the cost of being an American. And in reality, people in rural communities are the ones that are being propped up by money confiscated from others.

Roads alone are very expensive, over a million bucks per mile in rural areas. Wyoming has 33,000 miles of road serving a population of 550k. That works out to at least $60k per person in just to build the roads, never mind maintaining them. And not having these roads means higher transportation costs, which translate to more money spent on goods and more profit being lost to transporting sales.

There are plenty of countries in the world without individual taxes, they just also happen to be places most people don't want to live.

> over a million bucks per mile in rural areas

This is a commonly repeated myth, but is not usually true. Road costs are far lower than often claimed. A 2-lane asphalt road construction costs about $800k on average and lasts approximately 30 years with proper maintenance. (Using MDOT numbers, since that's what I happen to have on hand).

In Wyoming, this works out to $1,600 per person per year ($133/month/person). But that assumes every single road in Wyoming is paved -- they aren't. I don't know the accuracy of this, but the University of Wyoming claims only 20% of a county's roads are paved in the state, on average, so real costs are probably much lower.

In states with any significant city whatsoever, the costs drop dramatically. Michigan, for example, has 120,256 miles of road serving 9.9 million people, 75% of which are rural. That's a total road cost of about $360 per person per year ($30/person/month).

Interestingly, Wyoming is actually the worst pick of any state that they could choose. As of 2013[0], it was second in the nation (New Jersey) in balance of payments with the federal government (give more than take). It was one of only two red states, along with North Dakota. Per capita, it paid the most of any state in corporate taxes, 3rd most in estate taxes (behind CT and FL), and 2nd in excise taxes (ND).

[0] https://osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2015/fed_budget_fy201...

I can't find a more recent pre-compiled source, and too lazy to run the numbers myself. I doubt it has changed significantly enough to make the

Given the fact that most farmers (or at least the ones we are talking about here) are living off the welfare gravy train known as agricultural subsidies it is hard to have any pity for those who think that their taxes are confiscation. They would have been forced off their inefficient enterprise generations ago if it were not for those "societies to which they have little to no connection" propping them up.

You'd get no resistance from me to eliminate agriculture subsidies. It would be mighty nice to see an organized movement to produce crops free of subsidies. I think people would be shocked to see just how cheap their food really is.

> inefficient enterprise

only when competing against imports from defacto slaves in other countries..

Yeah, that's kind of bullshit. They send their kids to public schools and maybe public universities later, drive on public roads, use water, electricity, etc. They also have a place where they buy seed, animals, neighbors they attend church with, etc. Not to mention the markets they need to sell to.

There is some level of self-sustainment but it's a myth how 'independent' people really are.

They might be detached from the federal side of things but they still also have to interact at a state level.

There are levels of rural, BTW. Of which more of these services aren't provided.

Those societies are their customers. It's where they're making all their money.

Only off-the-grid homesteaders can make any credible claim to having no connection to society at large, but if they get sick, they better be honest with themselves and just die at home instead of going to get healthcare from a system they elected not to contribute to.

Why should they be taxed for the benefit of their customers? Aren't their customers paying them?

Modern society works by having everyone contribute for the greater good. One of the principal mechanisms by which this occurs is taxation and spending on government services.

You go really far down the civilizational chain if you remove these mechanisms. Almost all the way down to primitivism.

> Modern society works by having everyone contribute for the greater good.

Whose definition of "good" are we using? Clearly not mine, as my definition of "good" demands consent.

Stop using the Internet for starters, then. Billions of dollars of tax money went into developing it.

That's just foolish. I'm not going to forsake the benefit of something I'm forced to pay for. I can, however, still advocate for changes to that system. That isn't hypocrisy.

The system is what allowed the existence of the medium you're using to argue against it. It is hypocritical to argue against the downsides of civilization while taking advantages of all of its benefits.

So if a thief steals your car and leaves you his bicycle, it's hypocritical to criticize him while using the bike to get around? Or if you're forced to pay protection money by some gang, it's hypocritical to criticize them even if they do protect your business from other gangs?

And is it hypocritical to live in the West and take advantage of all the benefits it gained from centuries of imperialism and exploitation, while criticizing that behavior?

I'm not against taxation, but that's some BS logic.

Just some notes: Using an bicycle that isn't yours is illegal even if it supposedly was left there by a thief, at least here. In a similar way it is legal to buy protection from someone if you feel you have a need to, that right is questionable. Private security is much more mob like than taxes IMHO.

I think the ideas of anti-taxation is often hypocritical, too often you see people critize tax cuts that do not serve their other beliefs. Mind you, this is not an argument against tax cuts, I just think anti taxation is an pipedream.

Your attempt to make an analogy here doesn't hold up. The anti-tax position would be to want to keep your car but also get use of the bicycle whenever you want it, since the true taxation analogy would be both you and the other person granting use of your property to others.

Unless you want to argue about people paying more in taxes than they (feel they) get in benefits. In which case, well, the most rabid anti-tax people generally are getting far more benefits than they pay for (and are busily re-rigging the tax system to tilt even more in their favor).

I'm not arguing for "the most rabid anti-tax people" and whatever their position may be. I'm arguing against a specific claim made by CydeWeys - that it's "hypocritical to argue against the downsides of civilization while taking advantages of all of its benefits" - and my analogies are specifically written to fit that claim.

If the claim was that anti-tax people demand both not paying tax and that others do, then I wouldn't have posted. Although I'd say that just selfish, not hypocritical.

If the claim was that anti-tax people demand both not paying tax and that others do

But that is exactly it. They want all the benefits of living in a modern civilized society, but they don't want to pay their share of keeping that society going.

What you may be missing is that not everyone shares your assumption that taxation is a sine qua non of the benefits they want from modern society. They might be wrong, but that doesn't make them hypocrites.

Also, the claim that it's all hypocrisy reminds me of this bit from the TAL episode "What Kind of Country":

Jan Martin: And a gentleman came up to me and actually thanked me for the adopt a street light program. He had just written a check to the city for $300 to turn all the street lights back on in his neighborhood. And I did remind him that for $200 if he had supported the tax initiative, we could have had not only streetlights, but parks and firemen and swimming pools and community centers. That by combining our resources, we as a community can actually accomplish more than we as individuals.

Robert Smith: And he said?

Jan Martin: He said he would never support a tax increase.

By that logic you couldn't argue against anything in our current system, since it all played a part in creating the life you live.

You'd be just like the current generation of Americans in power. Get fat off of all the rich government programs, then cut them as you no longer need them - forget the people who are currently in the position you once were. To me, it's disgusting and selfish, but America seems fine with it. America is doing fine, right? Oh wait . . .

A certain base is required for customers to exist. It's most beneficial to pay a tiny amount towards this vs. having no customers.

Especially when you consider that the cost of "military protection" would be is a tiny, tiny fraction of what we spend annually to maintain our global military empire that offers no protection at all (and actually serves to create many new enemies and threats).

>And even military protection, even if it seems far away and remote from your farm.

Not in the US, which is mostly the offender, and no country will ever attempt to attack it (domestically), even if US kept just 1/10 the military resources it has, unless provoked purposefully for months on end into doing so (e.g. Pearl Harbor).

If nothing else, it's probably that the benefit you get from the government does not depend on your tax burden. So the money they pay to the government has "zero" utility to them. Spending that money somewhere else, even if the utility is very low, would seem better.

One common feeling (i am from a farming community in Canada) is that tax revenue tends to get siphoned to urban areas.

Politicians focus on bigger voting blocks, while rural communities (in their mind) pay for those promises.

I'm sure that is a common feeling. And it probably varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

But in the USA, just as coastal areas subsidize inland areas, typically urban areas within a state subsidize the rural areas. Definitely true of California counties, and I'd be very surprised if this wasn't true of any particular state.

This gets brought up a lot on Hacker News as if it's a bad thing. One, I doubt it's as universally true as people think (I'd wager that in Utah, say, an equal chunk of taxes comes from suburban as urban areas), and two, people who can't afford the cities need places to live and those who can need places to vacation and buy food.

I don't see them presenting it in a negative, just a fact, and one not understood in rural areas.

If you believe in wealth distribution, then richer coastal or urban areas should help out their brethren in the rural areas and spread the money around. It's when those rural brethren then attack the better off coastal / urban folks as stealing their money that things become problematic.

Don't forget that red (more rural) states also receive political welfare in the form of the electoral college, so their misguided views carry more weight.

Good point.

And then complain about being the neglected or down-trodden ones.

Its not a bad thing. But it is quite annoying that the places who benefit the most from taxes keep trying to abolish them out of a lack of understanding, and also get an oversized influence in terms of voting value to do so.

I don't think subsidizing rural living a bad thing, but I do think rural people thinking "I don't get anything from the government, why should I pay taxes" is a bad thing.

I was responding to a comment that stated that rural folks believe that they subsidize the cities by pointing out that belief was contrary to the reality (at least in the States; I don't know much about Canada's rural vs urban divisions, but I'd guess the dynamics there are similar).

As far as what I prefer: I have no issue subsidizing rural areas, within reason. I support everyone having access to basic infrastructure, healthcare, and education, regardless of where they live. Beyond that, there's no particular reason for government to provide incentives to live in one or the other; let the market sort that out.

The city slickers don't want to cut checks to a bunch of hicks and the rednecks don't want to give their money to the city slickers and neither wants the other telling them what to do but our tax system ensures that they can't stay out of each other's business.

Except the “city slickers” have been cutting checks to the “hicks and rednecks” for decades, and furthermore, the “hicks and rednecks” vote against this and rail on the “city slickers”for doing so, while simultaneously falsely believing they cut chekcks to the “city slickers” and also complaining about any time their checks from the “city slickers”are reduced (try campaigning in Iowa on a platform of reducing farm subsidies).

And the counterpoint to that is that the city slickers do whatever they want when it comes to running the state.

NY-SAFE is a good recent example of the city doing one thing despite the objection (as opposed to apathy) of everywhere else.

Depends on the locale, but sometimes just talking to the city works. If you're in a rural area of a smaller town, the mayor or council may not have reason to go to the rural areas. That can seem like they're getting purposefully neglected.

The reality is that they may not know of the giant pothole on County Road 18 or the rampant littering in certain areas. It may not always work, but informing the local government of issues might get you what you want. After all, you are the constituent that gets those people into office. Let them help you.

Rural areas usually get more per capita. It's just that density makes services of all sorts easier and more efficient to provide.

What's the feeling about the other side of that, which is industry-specific subsidies?

While not on the same level as the US, Canada still provides significant farm subsidies, which comes from.. tax revenue!

Did you see the thread here literally yesterday about taxes becoming higher for upper-middle class earners in blue states? Why didn't they get asked why they don't want roads?

I feel like this comes up any time someone does something to avoid paying taxes, as if that necessarily means they want no government at all. They (the farmers) will see no appreciable difference whether they pay the tax or buy the tractor, so they choose the tractor. That doesn't mean they don't want roads.

Because upper middle class earners in blue states, and blue states in general, already pay out more in taxes than they get back. Rural areas don’t.

Parent point: Why do farmers see taxes paid as providing no value to them? Don't they want roads?

My point: Nobody wants to pay taxes they don't have to, and farmers are no different from upper-middle class blue state residents in that regard. It doesn't mean they literally don't want roads.

That blue state residents already pay more in taxes than they get back is irrelevant. Nobody wants to pay more in taxes, and that doesn't mean nobody wants roads.

>Nobody wants to pay more in taxes

Bullshit. I'm happy to pay more in taxes if it means that the society I'm a part of improves as a consequence.

Whether money from a tax increase is well spent is another question, however.

In the same way that people buys online (or in the neighbouring state) and “forgets” to pay sales tax. It’s better to keep the money.

I think they just simply think "how can I minimize what I pay in taxes". They might think of police, roads, etc but that's after they finish thinking about themselves and their own accounting. So it means pretty much they never think of it.

But those things were all there back when this hypothetical farmer wasn't making any money. Tragedy of the commons, perhaps.

I know people who do the same thing with charitable donations. They donate to an organization because they "need the tax deduction". Despite that they'd have more money in their pocket if they just didn't make the donation in the first place.

When most people bring up tax deductions in casual settings it's pretty obvious pretty quickly that they don't really know what a tax deduction is. And the odds quickly approach 1 if they use the phrase "write-off."

It seems to be the common understanding among many that a "write off" of a business expense like a laptop or something means you get that thing for free.

I wonder if this is the result of most people taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing at tax time.

I think it's the result of them probably getting paid a salary out of their business, and the laptop being purchased in December or January makes no difference to their actual take home pay (assuming they're not distributing 100% of profit).

But that being said, a 15-30% discount because you used a different credit card to buy it is a pretty good incentive.

Yes. I know lots of folks living in cheap Midwestern housing who think they're getting a great deal on the mortgage interest rate deduction, but who almost certainly have deductions at or below the standard amount.

I'd venture that a lot of people are typing all this info into their tax software, which summarily throws it all away without them really understanding that that's what's happening.

Regular folks just do not get this stuff and it's silly that we have such a complicated system.

Yeah but the upside of that particularly ignorance is that a charity gets a donation.. Win-win in my book.

They might benefit indirectly from the donation in a way they couldn't by spending the money themselves, while also getting an income tax deduction.

I'm separating the people I'm talking about from people that actually just want to make donations because of the social good. This other group seems to have no interest in making contributions other than their own misunderstanding of what a tax deduction is.

Other than "feeling good" you can't derive personal benefit from a deductible donation.

That's not true. If the donation helps enable a societal outcome that you benefit from (i.e. a donation to a local environmental cleanup nonprofit organization results in a cleaner park for you to enjoy), then you can benefit. You can't derive an exclusive personal benefit from it, of course. If you did, it would be tax fraud.

Depending on how underwithheld you are, you can avoid tax underpayment penalties.

money that I will never see again

See also: depreciation on a $150K tractor I didn’t need.

Depreciation on a $150K tractor you don't need amounts to -$150K, for what it's worth ;) It's just some amount of that every year (with the biggest hit being in the same year, same for buying a new car).

Dude, you’re deconstructing a clever rejoinder on the topic of paying taxes. Ease up, I know how depreciation works. :-)

I literally put a smiley in my reply to indicate tone, and yet you still somehow miscontrued it. Take your own advice :D

You can still sell it.

I think one of the issues is the farmers are conflating their incorporated farm's assets with their own.

I think it's a failure at root to understand how marginal tax rates work. There is an honest-to-god, widespread folk mythology about how you can actually earn less by earning more, because you'll pay a higher tax rate. You can hear this opinion expressed by people of all intelligence levels and in all professions, from fry cooks to engineers.

This, in my experience, drives a lot of insane opinions about taxes.

US tax code is a strange animal. While in general you take home more if you earn more, the curve is not always smooth. There are several spot you suddenly lose the ability to claim certain benefit as income increase. In a situation like that you could take home slightly less as your income increase. If your income is high enough, those doesn't apply to you. All you need to worry about it the different tax bracket.

Very very few things being claimed by the average person fall off immediately, almost all of them scale such that you are still netting an increase, even if that increase is less pronounced.

In fact, I can't think of a thing where this isn't the case. Can you provide an example?

All of the people who would get jobs if it wouldn't cut them off of their free/cheap housing and food stamps? You either qualify for subsidized housing or you don't (at least in my state).

> the curve is not always smooth


If the tax code was easily understood, these steep/jagged areas of the tax curve wouldn't exist. Even my accountant seems to struggle with the amount of variables when I ask similar questions.

Yes. This is absolutely a big problem. The incentives are all wrong here. But that's not really what we're talking about. We're talking about working people who aren't receiving any additional government assistance not understanding marginal tax rates.

I still remember a HS teacher insisting that because she got a raise she took less money home. A friend of mine was the son of a CPA and all but called her a liar in the middle of class.

I was one of those people who didn't understand it enough to think that an increase once you got to a new bracket applied to all your income. In that situation, it's logical to be careful not to move to the next tax bracket accidentally. It wasn't until later that I understood that the bracket applies only to the amount of your income that is above the bracket amount. I think it's a common assumption to make if you don't research it more carefully.

This myth is probably fed by employers who don't want to give raises as well.

"Well if I give you a raise, you won't get more money! Get back to work!"

Sadly, this is a conversation I've had several times.

In my case it was true, because I became ineligible for overtime.

But it is true that the marginal earnings decrease. If I suddenly am making less on the margin for working more, that might be enough to tip the decision to "not worth it."

But from experience in the UK where there are some points in the tax scale that have odd high marginal rates (about £110k I think) but if you in that rage your employer normally pays you enough to jump over that band and you can do salary sacrifice or extra payments into a pension for some juicy tax benefits also EIS's and VCT's come into play at that level.

Most white collar professionals don't have obvious things they could invest money in that would quickly improve their bottom line. Farmers have that option constantly, so their situation is qualitatively different in a way that the white collar professionals in this thread clearly have trouble understanding.

Except that in the situation described, this wasn't "I am reinvesting in my business to turn a higher profit in the future" but rather a case of "I am buying something that will not improve my bottom line in order to avoid paying taxes."

They aren't buying things they don't need. They are buying newer equipment to replace older equipment. Could they wait another 2-5 years on some of those purchases, maybe, but they aren't being irrational given the current system and incentives.

Not many people will deliberately throw away money just to avoid taxes that would have been cheaper.

Farmers aren't stupid. They're doing what makes them the most money in the long run.

I think both, but is it really saving money if you personally are unable to buy food after a bad season?

If it's philosophical then it doesn't matter, it's just short sighted. They just see it as "The government taking my money" vs "at least I own this semi, even if it's useless it's mine"

What? They're unable to buy food after a bad season because of their stupid tax avoidance schemes, not in spite of it.

Governments need to subsidies farming even more. In India farmers generally don't have to pay income taxes.

My parents almost invested in an Apple II solution in the early 1980s that made robocalls using a wardialer and playing a message to people and telling them where to go or call to buy things.

In the meetings where farmers as well.

The company said the system was designed by Steve Wozniak at Apple and very reliable.

Farmers did not want to buy it but rent it instead.


When you rent equipment you can claim it as an expense on taxes, anything from a telephone to a computer to tractors, etc. Another reason is if they broke, rental company would fix it or replace it with another one.

The same mindset exists in many small businesses that require regular asset purchases, especially manufacturing. I'm not sure farming is special in this regard.

Doesn't it make more sense to buy insurance, if they want to forward the money to next year? Insurance is usually overpaying for future events, but if the cost is losing 30% to the IRS or 50% on stuff you don't need it might make sense.

Depends do farmers avoid tax on fuel like they do in the UK

> The farmers would talk about struggling, but have a brand new semi-tractor sitting in a barn unused 10 months out of the year.

Don't you think that PERCEPTION is a horrible mindset?

Less sympathy to people's stresses because they haven't lost their dignity.

This applies to street beggars, immigrants, etc.

The stuff I've heard are appalling. Formally middle class immigrants getting less empathy because they have cell phones. "Hey they should have sold the cell phone thats not a prerequisite to communication in 2017, their priorities are way too off for them to deserve any support"

Back to the topic at hand, maybe thats part of the suicide!

> "Hey they should have sold the cell phone thats not a prerequisite to communication in 2017, their priorities are way too off for them to deserve any support"

Not to get too off topic here but during my college years I worked at a grocery store. I found it unbelievable how many times I had to listen to a customer complain about the cell phone that the customer who was in front of them had. "I just don't understand how they can afford a cell phone if they are on food stamps!"[0] "Uh cool, would you like plastic or paper?"

Keep in mind that a trac phone plan is less than $15 dollars a month and even cheaper if you are careful with it... but I wouldn't have dared tell the outraged customer that. It's always crazy to me how people think they can solve another persons life problems based on a 15 second observation.

[0] In Massachusetts the food stamp cards were/are a distinct blue color and easy to spot.

To take it further off-topic, anyone on a cell phone while checking out or delaying the line at the grocery store gets an evil eye from me. That goes for you too granny that counts out every penny! :P

While your general observation is reasonable, it doesn't apply to the GPs example of a farmer buying an expensive piece of farm equipment that they will not use just to reduce their taxable income. In the examples you gave the cell phone is actually used.

Is it possible to criticize decisions and have empathy at the same time?

Or is criticism not acceptable at all?

Currently, the first comment including replies makes up for 182 comments out of 312, and as far as page estate goes, it completely dominates. It's about technicalities, attachment to land, all sorts of things except depression and suicide.

Though what it pushes down isn't all better, with niceties such as "the market is doing a good job at signaling that they probably need to change professions"

Fucking HN. Seriously. I want textfiles back.

> Is it possible to criticize decisions and have empathy at the same time?

Yes, it's possible, but it's not done here.

> Or is criticism not acceptable at all?

Are you projecting? Whenever the glaring soullessnes in a HN thread is criticized, it's downvotes and hair splitting.

Yes, it's technically possible to have empathy and also criticize, but due to the sequential nature of communication even when you do both, you have to decide what to do first. When the whole page is taken up by chatter, the empathy exists somewhere below the "More" fold, if at all.

Yes, criticism is acceptable. As long as criticism of the criticism, such as calling it heartless victim blaming as I would, is also acceptable. Otherwise, the right to criticize is forfeit.

sure its possible

wasn't from the people I saw, typically coworkers, friends, their parents

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