A New Death Tax

"Mr. READSHAW. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as I was going through your amendment, through the exemption section, I could not find any definitive answer to my question, which is this: Will funeral services, funeral merchandise be taxed under your plan?

Mr. ROHRER. Mr. Speaker, under the broadening of the base, such a service as a funeral service, in fact, would be subject; yes. A one-time expense, clearly.

Mr. READSHAW. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That ends my interrogation. Mr. Speaker, may I speak on the amendment, please.

Mr. READSHAW. Mr. Speaker, through the debate and through studying this amendment, I have reached, and the response by the prime sponsor is that funeral services, funeral merchandise will be taxed under his plan.

I would just like to make a few comments. What I have gained from the debate and from looking at the content of the amendment, we find some interesting things taking place here. And I know many members are still, not confused, but still need to be answered the question as to what is and is not taxable. Under this scenario, as we go through trying to eliminate property taxes, what we are faced with here – and I allude to much of the debate that we experienced yesterday – is the fact that someone can feel ill, go to the doctor's office, that is not taxed. The doctor can write them a prescription to get an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), blood work, and an x ray, and they have that done in a nonhospital setting, and from what was said last evening, that will now be taxable. The doctor gets the results of the tests, calls the patient back, that is not taxable; explains to the patient that they have 3 months to live. The patient goes home, becomes ill, enters into a hospice setting, that is taxable. The patient dies, the funeral is taxable; buys merchandise such as a casket, a vault, so on and so forth, that is taxable; you probate the will, require an attorney's assistance, that is taxable.

And I just think that what we have established here after so many of us have been fighting and attempting to eliminate the inheritance tax in Pennsylvania, what we have developed here is a new death tax. Now, I do not know about anyone else, but I feel really reluctant in going home, as we will be, and in trying to explain to our constituents, in our efforts to eliminate property tax or get to the position of a significant reduction, that we are going to have to tax their funerals, we are going to have to tax their funeral merchandise, and if you bury someone in the family that possibly the cemetery does not serve and give perpetual care to, you are going to hire a lawn service to go cut the grass on the graves, and that is taxable, too. So what we are talking about here in all those scenarios is tax, tax, tax at probably the worst time and the worst experience that anyone can ever endure in their lifetime, and that is facing death, grief, and the loss of a member of the family.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have been fighting, many of us or most of us have been fighting to eliminate the inheritance tax in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and I just cannot understand while we are fighting to eliminate the inheritance tax, why we are now bestowing a tax on funerals, funeral merchandise, attorney's fees and probating a will and all those things that have to do with facing the loss of a loved one.

Mr. Speaker, everyone on this floor, I know, will search their hearts as to how they are going to vote eventually on this amendment, but under the guise of the proper thing to do, I must vote "no," and I ask everyone else to think about the comments that I have said and vote "no" also. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. House floor."

State Representative Harry Readshaw, House Legislative Journal, January 29, 2008