Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Estate Tax Revenue Not Predictable but It Brought to Illinois $158 Million in 12 Months

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Estate Tax Revenue Not Predictable but It Brought to Illinois $158 Million in 12 Months

Article excerpt

Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but Illinois tax collectors have a hard time calculating how much money they will collect when you die.

"We're all throwing at a dart board," said Rick Hopper, the state treasurer's director of estate taxes. "There's so many variables. Who died. When they died. How much money they had."

Every spring, state officials find themselves in a quandary trying to predict how much money the state will be able to spend when the new budget year starts July 1.

Projecting revenue from income and sales taxes, which provide most of the state's money, is relatively easy because the estimates are based on economic trends.

But there is no exact science to predict which of the state's wealthy residents will die, said William Hall, executive director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission.

"A source like this is based upon how many rich people die and how long it takes the estate to settle," Hall said. "It's a very difficult source to estimate; fortunately, it's one of the smaller sources to estimate."

Estate taxes account for a small percentage of the state's revenue, but it has been a growing source of money, hitting a record high of $169 million for the fiscal year that ended in June, 1993, and surpassing the state's expectations.

Missouri collected $57.8 million in inheritance taxes last year, said Kay Dinolfo, spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue.

Illinois' record collection was due, in part, from the death of a wealthy resident from Champaign County whose heirs had to pay $18 million in estate taxes, one of the largest in recent history, Hopper said. State officials refused to identify the resident, saying state law prohibits them from disclosing who pays estate taxes.

Most people, however, will never have to worry about this tax because the first $600,000 of an estate is exempt from taxes, said John Simpson, an assistant attorney general who oversees collection of money from dead people. …

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