LINCOLN — Some “sell-off fever” preceded the fiscal cliff.

Nebraska income tax receipts soared in December, in large part because people were selling off stocks, bonds, businesses, farms and other property in anticipation of much-higher capital gains taxes this year.

“Investors were selling and grabbing their capital gains, thinking it would be taxed at a lower rate,” said Dana Webb, a financial adviser with Manarin Securities of Omaha.

“I saw a lot of that: 'Go ahead and grab it.' ”

Farmers National Co. reported Thursday that economic uncertainty at the end of the year helped boost sales activity of farm and ranch property by 40 percent over 2011.

That will likely lead to tighter inventory and increased farmland values in 2013, a company official said.

“Pure economics should dictate that values rise if the supply of available land tightens,” said Derrick Volchoff, vice president of real estate operations for Farmers National.

Last year's purchasers were cash-rich farmers, he said, buoyed by high commodity prices and wishing to expand their operations.

The sell-offs translated into a 17 percent increase in Nebraska individual income tax receipts in December.

That contributed to an overall increase of state tax receipts of nearly 13 percent, or about $41million more than the forecast of $322 million.

State Tax Commissioner Doug Ewald warned that the increase was a “one-time spike.”

“While we're happy to have the money, it's not something you should bank on,” Ewald said.

State lawmakers keep a keen eye on tax receipts.

If they're down, that could require cuts in spending or tax increases.

If they're up, that means more money in the state's cash reserve fund or the opportunity to cut tax rates or increase spending.

Through the first six months of the fiscal year, Nebraska has collected about $80 million more in taxes than forecast.

Webb said that while the sell-off boosted tax receipts in December, it may mean fewer sales and income tax receipts in coming months as investors wait and see if tax rates come down again.

December also saw a big increase in corporate income tax payments.

Ewald said the $54 million in gross receipts (receipts before refunds are deducted) set a monthly record.

About $250 million in corporate income taxes are forecast to be collected in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Ewald said the corporate income tax mark probably reflected increased earnings by corporations because of the improved economy, holding the line on new hiring and firms' becoming more efficient through technology.

In the fiscal cliff deal, Congress raised individual income and capital gains taxes for individuals making more than $400,000 and couples more than $450,000.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584, paul.hammel@owh.com

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