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Rural Tax Education for Ag Producers and Extension Educators
By moniquegarcia on Tue, 09/03/2013 - 11:51am
While a lot of information is available on income taxes, relatively little of it is focused on agricultural issues and the specialized tax treatment(s) afforded those issues. Very little help was available for producers to cope with income variability and tax implications, and the information available has been difficult for producers to access in a low-cost or easily accessible manner. Because of the complex nature of tax law and the fluidity of changes, many extension programming efforts in individual states do not include income tax education for agricultural producers. The goal of Rural Tax Education is to provide a source for agriculturally related income and self-employment tax information that is current, uncomplicated and straight forward, enabling both agricultural producers and extension educators to understand this information and incorporate it into their programs.
Description of Action:
Rural Tax Education is a joint project of extension specialists from 15 land grant universities, led by Utah State University and including the University of Arizona. Recognizing the need for federal tax management educational materials that are accessible to both producers and extension educators, the individuals involved obtained a $50,000 grant from USDA-RMA and created RuralTax.org. A website at RuralTax.org was created in the fall of 2010, featuring more than 20 fact sheets, a complete sample federal farm tax return with all the schedules and accompanying line-by-line explanations for each form, and links to other materials. All of the materials on the website were reviewed for technical accuracy and comprehension by the target audience. The site is regularly updated to reflect changes in current tax laws. Extension programs can highlight selected issues and direct the audience to the website for a more thorough treatment of the topic. In an era of deep budget cuts, having a resource that combines the expertise from multiple universities helps to continue to provide quality education to the public using limited resources.
Rural Tax Education is fulfilling its role as a dependable source of information in support of other extension programs and agricultural producers. Producers are already benefiting from the materials generated by the RuralTax.org group. For example, the website content was used in 9 presentations to Native American audiences, which face unique issues. Materials have been used in programming in each of the 15 states involved as well as additional states. Many extension groups have reported that now that materials are available they are including tax issues in their programming. Since going live in October 2010, the website has had 10,672 unique visitors (not including robots or worms), with each visitor viewing an average of 2 pages and making 7.7 hits. One web visitor commented, “I went to this website following a press release referring farmers to this website to learn more about IRS reporting of weather-related disasters here in NYS. This is a great web site! Congratulations to the committee for putting it together. As an Extension educator I hope to use some of the materials for a beginning farmers class.”
In January 2011 the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Blog” promoted the website to a nationwide audience, and the program was awarded the 2011 Western Agricultural Extension Association’s program award for project.