JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is joining at least one other state in offering a tax exemption for stillbirths, after Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law allowing it starting this year.
The measure will allow a one-time exemption of $1,200 from a parent's income — the same amount taxpayers can claim for each dependent on tax returns. Arizona appears to be the only other state with a similar tax policy, although that's difficult to track.
Missouri state Sen. Ed Emery, who tacked the stillbirth tax exemption onto a broader tax bill, said women face expenses during pregnancy even when they don't give birth to a live baby. Under Missouri law, a parent can apply for a certificate of birth resulting in a stillbirth after 20 weeks of pregnancy or if the fetus reaches a certain weight. It's generally considered to be a miscarriage if the fetus dies before 20 weeks.
Emery, a Lamar Republican, said his wife had three miscarriages and that the death of a child can be difficult for parents "even if it's one that you've never been able to hold in your arms." He said the legislation could help relieve some stress by offsetting medical expenses.
"Obviously when you go through that, you have the family struggles within just because of the loss," Emery said. "At least this would be a minor part of relief on the financial side."
There were an average of 414 fetal deaths in Missouri per year between 2009 and 2013, according a fiscal report by legislative researchers. They used that to estimate that the provision will cost the state about $30,000 in lost revenue. With other provisions included, the bill could cost the state more than $200,000 in general revenue this fiscal year and more than $300,000 in other funds.
The measure passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate, although a few Democrats have raised concerns that it could open the door to a broader definition of "personhood" in Missouri. Some abortion opponents hope to bestow personhood status on fertilized eggs and fetuses; supporters of abortion rights are concerned that would be used to restrict abortions.
Emery said that was not the intent of the legislation, although he said he would be pleased if the measure is used to promote personhood proposals.
Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, said she's concerned about that but still voted for the bill. She and Democratic Rep. Deb Lavender of Kirkwood said that despite their concerns, other aspects of the legislation swayed them.
For example, the measure gives incentives to the Missouri Department of Revenue to issue tax refunds more quickly by requiring the state to pay interest after 45 days instead of 90 days.
Other provisions include sales tax exemptions for graphing calculators worth less than $150 during a certain period and aircrafts sold to out-of-state residents or companies.
The law takes effect Aug. 28.
The tax bill is HB 517.
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