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Casket Maker Hopes Proposed Sales Tax is Met with Death Knell

By Richard Emmons

I met with Don Scott on Sept. 16. He wanted to show me one of his $350 pine caskets, which he sells to individuals and local funeral homes. You can see his ad on page 20.

I told him that folks should buy a casket now and use it to store firewood or grandkids’ toys until needed “later in life.” He thought that was funny.

Don Scott with $350 pine casket. Photo: Richard Emmons

Don got serious when we spoke about the proposed seasonal sales tax.

I told him that he would need to charge an extra $11 if he sold someone a casket between April 15 and Oct. 15. No tax would be due if the casket were purchased on or before April 14 or on or after October 16.

He agreed it would be worse if he sold eggs by the dozen for $3.50 because the tax would be 11 cents.

I explained how the sales tax would work if he sold a $3,500 Redwood Deluxe Casket. “You’d charge 3% on the first $2,000 and nothing on the $1500 above $2,000.”

“Sounds complicated,” Don noted.

“Yes, but it gets worse.” I explained how he would need to file a “Notice of Operation” form with the county because he does business in Josephine County. The ordinance does not require that he file a sales tax form with the county because under the ordinance, the county would request a copy of his tax return from Salem.

“Do you want Josephine County to get a copy of your tax return?”


Next, I pointed out that his tax return would be of no value to the county when it comes to payment of the sales tax. This is because no one files a business tax return that breaks out revenue from April 15 to Oct. 15 for transactions capped at $2,000. This would have to be tracked separately.

“That would be horrible. It’s enough work already doing my books on an annual basis,” Don said.

I suggested that businesses put the sales tax receipts in a separate bank account, so they have the money to pay on March 1 each year.

Don is a busy man, so we didn’t have an extended discourse on the merits and demerits of the proposed sales tax. What else could I have shared?

  • The $2,000 threshold is tied to the consumer price index. If inflation goes up by 10%, then the threshold increases to $2,200. This would adjust upward each year.
  • There is no minimum sales threshold in the ordinance, so a kid with a lemonade stand would be liable for collecting and paying the sales tax.
  • Churches and nonprofit organizations would need to collect and pay the sales tax for products and services sold.
  • Legal, accounting, plumbing, contracting and other professional services would be taxable.
  • The sales tax would provide for more sheriff deputies and a reduced property tax in the City of Grants Pass.
  • The good news is that the 3% rate cannot be increased without voter approval. The bad news is that increasing the 3% tax rate is the only part of the ordinance explicitly requiring voter approval to change.

Yes, Don had heard enough about the proposed sales tax. He told me more about his caskets and how a local funeral services director owner told him, “That’s what I want!”

No one wants a casket now, but eventually we’ll all need one. We’ll see how many people want Josephine County to have the first county-wide sales tax in Oregon’s history.

Richard Emmons is the Publisher and Editor of the Josephine County Eagle.