May 18: Death Tax Is Alive

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Hartford Courant Capital Bureau Chief Christopher Keating comments on the unexpected windfall for the Connecticut budget: estate taxes from rich men and women who died in the past year.

Below is Keating’s story about the issue in the Courant. Read more at

Even if death and taxes are the only things certain in life, state legislators say they can never be certain about death taxes.

With no crystal ball and no idea when spectacularly wealthy Connecticut residents might die, state officials make an educated guess each year about how much they will collect in inheritance taxes.

They were way off this year.

Legislators expecting to collect about $150 million were stunned recently when the projection soared to $428 million — the highest amount, by far, in state history.

With the economy still sluggish, officials had been skittish this year about balancing the state budget. But the unexpectedly huge collection of inheritance taxes — along with a spike in income tax revenue —helped turn the red ink into black. The boost has pushed the state into a surplus, though lawmakers acknowledge that this represents one-time revenue that will be hard to duplicate.

“A lot of wealthy people died this year,” said House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk. “It’s unprecedented. That’s just chance. That has nothing to do with fiscal planning. That would be a one-shot.”

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