Death and Taxes in Rhode Island

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According to a Katie Davis story on channel 10, the State of Rhode Island has decided that prayer cards and cremation urns are taxable and are hitting funeral homes up for huge retroactive bills:

… State law exempts caskets and burial garments from sales tax. Urns aren’t specifically listed in the law, but funeral directors say for decades, they never collected sales tax on them.

“Since the 50s, none of us had,” Ted said. “The State of Rhode Island, when we were audited, never asked or required or looked for any information pertaining to any of that.”

But now, state tax officials are taking a second look at the law and adding up what’s owed.

Manning-Heffern is one of at least six Rhode Island funeral homes hit with a bill for back taxes.

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Well, that’s one way to find a windfall for a government that is overspending its budget.  One can’t help but think that it’s a harmful approach in the long run, though.  What other salable items and, similarly, regulations might exist that a go-getting taxman might find and target?

People go for decades with the understanding that the container for a deceased person’s ashes falls under the same tax definition as a container for an uncremated body, and rather than put in legislation clarifying for future purposes, the government sends an eye-popping bill.  I guess the state had to make up for the even-more-eye-popping bill a state college has to pay for an administrator’s vacation Internet bill.



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