The Final Frontier: A Tax Break for Burial in Space
By Howard Gleckman :: December 13th, 2011
Just when you thought you’ve heard it all, the Virginia General Assembly is about to consider a bill that would provide a tax subsidy to encourage people to be buried in space. Is buried the right verb?
Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore has proposed a deduction of up to $8,000 for people who agree to have their remains shot into orbit. But there is a catch—two actually. You’ll need to rocket off from a spaceport on Wallops Island, VA and it is a limited time only offer that is supposed to expire in 2020.
Like so many federal tax breaks, it is possible this one could get extended--unlike the lives of those whose ashes would get a tax-deductible ride to space.
This would seem to be a joke, but it is not. Del. Kilgore is not talking (good choice--I wouldn’t either), but J. Jack Kennedy, a member of the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority’s board of directors, was quoted by wtvr.com as saying, “This is about business and job opportunities.”
Of course it is.
It turns out that Virginia is in something of a space race with Florida, New Mexico, and California—all of which have their own spaceports. And with Congress slashing NASA’s budget, these facilities are, um, dying for business. Thus, the tax break. Think of it as something like the idiotic zero-sum game between states over where a new plant (or football stadium) gets built. Only this tax battle is aimed at dead people.
It is really about tourism, insists the director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission. After all, your friends and family will probably want to see you off and they’ll spend lots of dough at local restaurants and hotels. Maybe they’ll even stop by to visit the cute ponies at Assateague Island right down the road.
One firm, Celestis Inc, advertises several memorial spaceflight services. The low-end earth rise service is just $995 but that sounds like little more than a high-tech elevator ride. According to its Website, the trip “affordably launches a symbolic portion of cremated remains to space, and after experiencing the zero gravity environment, returns the individual flight capsules and modules back to Earth.”
I'm not so sure your remains will enjoy their time in zero gravity but your relatives do get a certificate, however.
The top of the line voyager service ($12,500) promises to shoot your ashes into deep space. Celestis is still working on the technology but will happily take your 10 percent deposit now. If you can wait ‘til next year, it could be tax deductible.
This is not the first time Kilgore has proposed tax breaks to benefit the spaceport. Back in 2008, he moved to exempt revenues from suborbital passenger ticket sales from the corporate income tax. Virginia already exempts the price of spaceflight services from its sales and use tax.
I anxiously await Florida’s counteroffer.