By Rep. Kristi Noem
April 17, 2015
When I was 21 years old, I got a call late one afternoon from Joanie, who worked with my family on our farm. She said, “Kristi, your dad is stuck in a grain bin.” I knew instantly what she meant by that. I told her to turn on the fans and I was on my way.
By the time I got there, neighbors and friends had taken payloaders and ripped down the grain bin trying to find him. When they finally did, they started doing CPR. I followed the ambulance to the hospital with my family and the doctors fought to save him for hours into the evening. After he passed away, I remember opening the door to the little room they’d kept our family in and there was a crowd of people standing in the emergency room. It wasn’t just a tragedy to me and my family. It was a tragedy to our entire community. Their support is something I’ll never forget.
We were a family that grew up with a man who could do anything. To me, he was invincible. It was impossible to imagine how we were going to pick up the pieces.
My dad’s number one dream in life was to pass his family farm onto us kids. That’s why he got up at 5:00 almost every morning. He wanted to give us the opportunity to farm together, if we wanted to.
Shortly after the accident, my family got a letter from the IRS telling us that we owed the death tax because we had experienced a tragedy. We could see that we had land that my dad had started buying while he was still in high school and land that my grandpa had bought. We had cattle. We had machinery. And we had a family that needed to make good decisions.
What we didn’t have was enough money in the bank to pay the IRS the death tax. All I could hear in my head was my dad saying, “Kristi, don’t sell the land. God isn’t making any more.” We were fortunate to get a loan. It kept our family’s American Dream going, but it also impacted nearly every decision we made for a decade.
I have never understood why the federal government thought it was appropriate to go after families with this double tax – especially in a time of crisis. My dad had already paid taxes on the equipment, the land, and any other assets. Now, we had to pay taxes on it again because he had died. It’s not right.
On April 16, the House passed a full and permanent repeal of the death tax – the first time we had done so in a decade. The administration has already threatened to veto it if the Senate decides to put it on his desk, however, which saddens me. No family should have to go through what ours did.
Through the death tax, the IRS is jeopardizing the American Dream for just two days’ worth of government spending each year. They’re doing so at a time when a family is still grieving and trying to figure out how they’ll move forward without this person in their lives. It’s wrong and I’m committed to repealing it.