A driving force behind the 1997 and 2001 changes to estate and gift tax laws was to provide some relief to farmers of family-owned farms and other small business owners. Because these two groups often posses a significant amount of business assets, they are more likely than other taxpayers to be subject to estate taxes. Congress responded by enacting provisions for special-use valuation of farmland, a family-business deduction, and installment payment of estate taxes.
A special formula to reduce the value of real estate is employed where heirs continue to use the property as a family farm or business. Moreover, they may not sell it to a non-relative for at least 10 years. This special use valuation serves to reduce the market value of the real estate of most farms by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent.
For estates where farm and business assets amount to more than 35 percent of the gross estate, the estate tax may be paid in installments over a 14-year period. The law provides reduced interest rates, and only interest payments are required for the first five years.