NBC 10 I-Team: Another RI funeral home hit with tax bill

(WJAR)

The owners of another Rhode Island funeral home told the NBC 10 I-Team they’ve been hit with a hefty tax bill, following a series of audits on funeral homes across the state.

Ted and Susan Wynne, owners of the Manning-Heffern Funeral Home in Pawtucket, told the NBC 10 I-Team they were notified by Rhode Island’s Division of Taxation that they owe approximately $10,000 in back taxes, as well as $8,000 in interest and penalties.

Ted said his own accountants were taking a look at the paperwork and he planned to negotiate the final cost with state officials.

“The cost of doing business in Rhode Island, for small businesses, is high,” he told NBC 10 in an interview last week.

The potential $18,00 bill includes retroactive sales tax on items including prayer cards and cremation urns. 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. Carpenter-Jenks Funeral Home was also audited and told to pay more than $25,000 in back taxes, according to owner Craig Carpenter.

"Shame on the state. Do it and go forward, but don't penalize me for something that you ignored,” Carpenter told NBC 10 in an interview last month.

The NBC 10 I-Team asked the Division of Taxation how many funeral homes are being audited, what the total tax bill is so far and how much of that money comes from items like cremation urns that weren’t taxed previously.

But a spokesman said those figures weren’t readily available.

Meanwhile, funeral directors told NBC 10 they plan to meet in the next few weeks to discuss the ongoing audits.

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