Pennsylvania Death, Gift Taxes Bring in More Money Than Any Other State

By Bowling, Brian | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

Pennsylvania Death, Gift Taxes Bring in More Money Than Any Other State


Bowling, Brian, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Benjamin Franklin once quipped that nothing is certain "except death and taxes," but even he couldn't know a tax on death would be just as certain in his home state.

Census Bureau figures released Monday show that about 2.5 percent of Pennsylvania's 2008 revenue came from "death and gift" taxes, the highest percentage of any state. Death taxes can take one of two forms -- a tax on the estate of the deceased or a tax on the amounts inherited by survivors. Until 2003, Pennsylvania had both.

While the state has followed the federal government and a majority of states in phasing out the estate tax, Pennsylvania clings to its 183-year-old inheritance tax.

Gerald Prante of the Tax Foundation, a national nonprofit, said most states have stopped trying to tax death-related property transfers.

"Most states have lowered theirs drastically in the last few years," he said. "In many states now (death taxes are) zero or close to zero."

Census Bureau figures show three states had no death or gift taxes in 2008 and only 13 states derived more than 1 percent of their total revenues from those kinds of taxes. By comparison, all states had some kind of death or gift tax in 2001 and 26 derived more than 1 percent of their total revenues from those taxes.

Pennsylvania got about 3.4 percent of its total revenues from death and gift taxes in 2001, second only to South Dakota at 3.6 percent. But South Dakota derived less than 1 percent of its revenues from death and gift taxes in 2008.

Prante said Pennsylvania seems to rely more than most states on specialty taxes rather than broad-based ones such as income and sales taxes. …

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