PA Drops Bid to Collect Inheritance Tax from Lesbian Widow

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At the end of April I shared a story about Barbara Baus, who was suing the state of Pennsylvania over an $11,000 inheritance tax bill she received when her wife, Catherine C. Burgi-Rios, passed away in 2012. Well I’m back with a happy development. The Morning Call reports that the state has dropped its bid to collect the money after marriage equality passed on May 20th. More: 

The federal [marriage] decision requires the department “to recognize same-sex couples for purposes of application of the inheritance tax,” deputy chief counsel Thomas Gohsler wrote in a legal filing. In so doing, tax authorities have informed Baus that she owes nothing further, he said.

Gohsler is asking Northampton County Judge Craig Dally to dismiss Baus’ lawsuit as moot. A hearing is scheduled Friday, but Baus’ lawyer said he will oppose the motion as it now stands.

Attorney Benjamin Jerner said Tuesday that he would like Dally to rule on sections of the inheritance tax law that speak of “a husband and a wife,” language that on its face excludes same-sex couples. While the state has indicated it will interpret those provisions to include gay marriages, Jerner said he worries future revenue departments may think differently. …

In throwing out Pennsylvania’s ban May 20, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III specifically cited inheritance in his reasoning. He noted that same-sex couples who have “purchased homes together and blended their property and finances” still faced inheritance tax bills of 15 percent — the state’s highest rate.

And the good news stemming from marriage equality keeps pouring in!