- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers want to end the state’s mysterious tax on using viewing coffins during funerals.

Caskets and urns are exempt from tax, but “viewing coffins” used during a service can leave the bereaved with an unexpected tab, Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2kc0vtY ) reported.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax-cut proposal would change the law to make such caskets, where the shell is reused but the interior is not, tax free. The change appears to have broad support so far.

The viewing casket is subject to the 6.875 percent state sales tax and any applicable local sales taxes. Minnesota Department of Revenue officials say it works out to about $70 tax on a $1,000 rental, and possibly more with local sales tax.

“It doesn’t quite make sense,” said Jeff Hartquist, president of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association. “We’re using, in essence, the same type of an item.”

The same taxes apply to temporary urns that hold ashes until transferred to another receptacle or scattered.

Department figures show Dayton’s proposal would impact the state treasury by $340,000 to $440,000 annually over the next four years.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said the proposal is a matter of consistency but also one of basic respect.

“We don’t tax them at the end of their lives,” Chamberlain said. “Let them rest in peace and let the families go and do their thing without levying that tax on that transaction.”

Preliminary statistics show that more than 43,000 people in the state died last year. The Minnesota Center for Health Statistics says about 60 percent of them were cremated.

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