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With tax software missing key updates and some important questions remaining unanswered, some farmers who did not pay estimated tax by January 15 may not be in a position to file their returns by March 1.
It’s almost March 1, which means that many farm leases around Iowa are beginning anew.[i] This key date is a good time to remind landlords of several available options to reduce the risks associated with nonpayment.
On February 26, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion concerning whether a county board of adjustment illegally granted an area variance. Because the homeowners did not present sufficient evidence of an unnecessary hardship, the Court ruled that the board illegally granted the request for the variance.
Update: On March 11, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law. The new law extends the ERC through December 31, 2021, with some modifications to quarters 3 and 4. On April 2, IRS issued guidance as to the CAA expansion for quarters 1 and 2 of 2021.
On February 19, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court considered whether an interested party can challenge the validity of a will while the testator is alive. The Court found that neither Iowa Code § 633.637 nor any other section of the Probate Code allows a predeath will challenge.
On February 10, I had the opportunity to speak at the Illinois Soybean Association's 2021 Soybean Summit regarding recent updates to the Paycheck Protection Program and the tax law. The information in this presentation is up to date through February 10, 2021. A copy of the slides may be downloaded below.
On February 3, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a father-son dispute over their member-managed LLC. The court recognized that the father, a farmer who created the LLC and gifted 50 percent of the shares to the son, did violate the operating agreement and engage in mismanagement. Overall, however, the court agreed with the district court that the farmer did not generally breach his fiduciary duties and did not harm the LLC through his actions as alleged in the son's derivative action.
On February 3, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals denied the request of farm borrowers to remand for a hearing on whether the district court should set aside the sale of their real property in a sheriff’s sale. The court found that any “irregularities” in the sale were due to the plaintiffs’ own actions.
On January 21, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion interpreting an alleged oral agreement between two cattle producers. The court affirmed that because the plaintiff did not present evidence that both parties agreed to the terms of a repurchase option contract, no contract existed. Additionally, the court affirmed that the plaintiff contracted with the defendant’s LLC rather than the defendant as an individual. Therefore, the defendant was not personally liable for damages.
On January 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a trial decision ruling that an insurance company did not have a duty to defend its policy holder against claims for fire damage. Specifically, the court affirmed that the insured did not prove that the fire occurred on land covered under the insurance policy and that the insured did not preserve the issue of whether the location where the fire occurred qualified for coverage under a “vacant land” provision in the policy.
On January 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling considering whether a county zoning Board of Adjustment properly granted an application for a wind turbine project. Despite the Board misinterpreting which ordinances were applicable, the court affirmed that the Board did rely on the relevant ordinances and factors when granting the utility company’s request. Additionally, the court affirmed that the Board gave proper notice.
Update: On the evening of December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act into law.
On December 16, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion on the timeliness of a redemption of agricultural real estate sold at a sheriff’s sale. Because the assignee did not pay the full amount due within the redemption period, the redemption attempt was untimely.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion determining whether an assessor properly appraised a feed manufacturing facility’s machinery for property tax purposes. The court analyzed whether a feed mill and steel grain storage bins met the definition of machinery under Iowa Code chapters 427A and 427B. Machinery must be used directly in manufacturing and a necessary part of the manufacturing process, used solely for effectuating that purpose, to qualify as tax exempt machinery.
On November 30, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding a district court’s order modifying farm leases. The court reversed the lower court’s order because the leases were not subject to judicial revision, nor was there evidence that court reformation was necessary.
A farmer owned 18,000 acres of farmland. He leased approximately half of the land to family members, including his daughter, at discounted rates. Family members did not know what rate the farmer charged other family members. The farmer did not use written leases.
On November 30, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding a trustee’s actions before she was replaced by judicial order. The court affirmed that the trustee’s inheritance should be reduced for tax penalties and interest incurred because she engaged in self-dealing. The court also affirmed a $20,000 trustee fee award and the denial of sanctions.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a district court order granting a permanent injunction preventing the defendant from interfering with the plaintiffs' use of an easement and private roadway. The court found that the defendant had improperly obstructed the easement with gates, fencing, and speed bumps, and that Iowa's partition fence law was inapplicable to the case.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s judgment in a property dispute between a dairy farmer and his new neighbors. The court ruled that the dairy farmer failed to show that both landowners accepted a fence as the boundary line. The court also affirmed that a 1955 easement did not grant the neighbors the right to cross the dairy farmer’s land.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that beneficiaries of a trust had not shown that a trust advisor should be removed from her role. The court found that any potential conflict of interest was waived when the settlor created the trust and that the advisor had not committed fraud, dishonesty, or abuse of discretion so as to require removal.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding the distribution of farm property in a will. The will created a sale restriction on the farmland and listed several requests regarding future treatment of the testator’s farm tenant. The court affirmed that the sale restriction created an unenforceable restraint on alienability. Additionally, the court ruled that the decedent’s requests for the beneficiary to lease the farmland to the current tenant and provide favorable terms to that tenant were optional, not mandatory.
On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling in a seven-sibling dispute over the inheritance of 240 acres of farmland. The court affirmed a jury verdict setting aside a mother’s will due to lack of mental capacity and undue influence, but reversed the portion of the verdict finding intentional interference with an inheritance. The court remanded for a new trial.
It has certainly been a year of challenges. COVID-19 triggered widespread economic harm, a once-in-a-lifetime derecho flattened fields and pummeled grain bins, and drought compounded the damage. Because of these disasters, most farmers received some unexpected payments in 2020.
On October 7, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion on whether a document signed by the trust grantor the day before he passed away was an amendment to his estate plan or merely instructions to his attorneys to redraft the plan. Because the document was “vague, obscure, and ambiguous,” the court affirmed that it was not an amendment to the trust.
On October 27, 2020, the EPA announced that it had approved the applications of Bayer and BASF for new registrations of dicamba-based XtendiMax and Engenia for over-the-top use on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans. It also approved Syngenta’s application for a label amendment to extend the December 20, 2020, expiration date for dicamba-based Tavium.
On October 7, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed a district court order which had denied a farming cooperative summary judgment on a claim of negligent hiring. The claim arose in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate and family members of a farmer killed when an employee of a trucking company drove into the back of the farmer’s tractor with a grain truck The court ruled that the cooperative could not be liable for the negligent hiring of its independent contractor’s employee.
With the election just around the corner, American tax policy faces uncertainty. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ushered in the most significant changes to the tax code in 30 years. Depending upon the outcome, the 2020 election could significantly alter the landscape again.
On October 7, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion concerning a city’s intent to develop land for a park and new high school. A landowner claimed the city committed an unconstitutional taking when it “earmarked” approximately nine acres of land for a potential right-of-way. Because the plans to acquire the land were theoretical, the court affirmed that the city did not create a servitude or uneconomical remnant.
Update: On October 6, Clinton County was added to the list.
On September 1, individual assistance was extended to:
The founders of our country believed that debtors should have an opportunity for a fresh start. The Constitution authorizes Congress to create bankruptcy laws. U.S. Const. Art. I, Sect. 8. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated, “Bankruptcy gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.” Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244 (1934). This fresh start occurs through a “bankruptcy discharge,” which generally releases debtors from personal liability for certain debts, preventing creditors from collecting those debts in the future.
On September 23, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion considering whether a release of liability waiver was a binding and enforceable contract. After a passenger of a semi-tractor was injured in an accident, she sought damages against the owner of the vehicle for the injuries sustained. The court affirmed that the waiver signed by the passenger was a valid release of her claims.
On September 2, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding a claim for a breach of contract of a farm lease and for replevin. Without a written lease, the trial court analyzed the conduct and credibility of both parties in order to determine whether the farm lease was modified. The court affirmed the district court’s award of damages for the landlord, but reversed the ruling denying replevin of farm equipment.
Many are reeling from the damage caused by the derecho which tore through the Midwest on August 10, 2020. Farmers lost grain bins, outbuildings, crops, and much more. Clean up is ongoing with hundreds of trees uprooted and strewn across lawns. This post provides an overview of some of the tax issues associated with the destruction, clean-up, and rebuilding.
On September 2, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the award of damages to a landlord for the breach of a pasture lease. The court declined to address the merits of the case because the tenant failed to preserve error.
Iowa land is is some of the most productive in the world. As settlers began arriving to the area, they encountered many swamps and sloughs making agriculture production difficult. To address the excess water, individual property owners drained their land using underground pipes, pumps, and open ditches to move excess surface water away from cropland.
The period for making Paycheck Protection Program loans through the CARES Act ended August 8. The program enabled 5.2 million loans, with $525 billion in proceeds disbursed to U.S. small businesses. When all was said and done, nearly $137 billion was left on the table.
On August 28, 2020, IRS issued Notice 2020-65, 2.5 pages of guidance related to the President’s August 8 payroll tax deferral Memorandum (Memorandum on Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster).
A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals illustrates how redemption works after a farm foreclosure and warns debtors that they must strictly follow the letter of the law to redeem their land.
As of September 2, no progress has been made on a stimulus package. Congress returns from the Labor Day Recess on September 8.
On July 22, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case seeking to set aside fraudulent transfers of a farm and three parcels of real estate. The court affirmed the district court’s order setting aside the transfer of the three parcels of land, but reversed the decision to set aside the transfer of the farm. The court ruled that the statute of limitations prevented the court from setting aside the otherwise fraudulent transfer of the farm.
Despite the recess for COVID-19, the Iowa Legislature passed many laws this term, many of them effective July 1, 2020. Below is summary of the new Iowa laws impacting agricultural producers and rural landowners.
On July 22, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding a petition to foreclose a mechanic’s lien and claim for breach of contract. After a working relationship soured, a contractor attempted to foreclose a mechanic’s lien and claimed he was still owed compensation for services performed. Because there was no written contract or accounting of payments, the court relied on the district court’s findings and affirmed the ruling dismissing the mechanic’s lien and finding that the homeowners reasonably compensated the contractor for his services.
Update: On February 26, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court reveresed the Court of Appeal's decision. Because the homeowners did not present sufficient evidence of an unnecessary hardship, the Court ruled that the board illegally granted the request for the variance.
On July 22, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a Board of Adjustment’s grant of an area variance. The Board properly considered all evidence and accurately applied Iowa law when granting a variance to prevent unnecessary hardship.
On July 22, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding a trustee’s request for fees and expenses incurred in administering a trust. The court affirmed the lower court’s ruling finding that the trustee was only entitled to a small portion of the claimed fees and expenses because she had not fulfilled her obligations to the trust or the beneficiary—likely in order to preserve trust assets for herself.
The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. The Center's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.