Monday, June 06, 2011

PA DoR Revised Safe Deposit Box Entry

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has loosened restrictions as to who may inventory a safe deposit box in which a decedent had an interest.

By its Inheritance Tax Bulletin 2011-02, entitled Safe Deposit Box Inventories and Notice, issued May 11, 2011, PA DoR announced its modification, effective on that date, of "the procedures under which estate representatives may enter the safe deposit box of a decedent" pursuant to the the provisions of the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1991 (the 'Act')."

The general rule regarding entry into a safe deposit box of a decedent is stated in 93 Pa. Code § 93.11 ("Limitation of entry by statute or regulation"), as follows:
No person seeking entry otherwise prohibited by the act, having actual knowledge of the death of a decedent may enter a safe deposit box of the decedent unless the entry is made under * * * [the Act] and no person acting as deputy, agent or in a similar capacity may enter a safe deposit box except as provided in this subchapter.
Subchapter B of those Regulations specifies the parameters of access, inventory, removal of contents, and reporting of values, regarding a decedent's safe deposit box.  Those regulations address:
  • Permission to Enter a Box Without Notice to the Department ( 93.3193.32, 93.33, 93.34, 93.35, 93.36, & 93.37 ) where a bank, Department representative, court, or business is involved or where a last will or cemetary deed is sought;
  • Subsequent entries (93.51);
  • Confidential information (93.61); and
Approximately twenty years ago and before, only PA DoR representatives could open and inventory a safe deposit box after an owner's death. Then the Department relented, and allowed, first banks, and later attorneys or accountants, to perform an inventory at an intial post-motem opening and then report to PA DoR.

With the issuance of this latest bulletin, a personal representative need not be accompanied by a Revenue representative, a bank employee, a lawyer, or an accountant, to inventory a safe deposit box:
[N]either a department or bank employee, nor lawyer or CPA must be present at a safe deposit box inventory. Instead, pursuant to the Act, a safe deposit box of a decedent may be entered at the time fixed in a notice mailed within seven days of the date of proposed entry, to the Department of Revenue and to the financial institution in which the box is located. 72 P.S. § 9193. The department no longer will provide employees to be present at safe deposit box inventories.
The procedures for those authorized by law to access a decedent's safe deposit box remain the same:
The Act requires that notice of a proposed safe deposit box entry and inventory must be delivered to the department via United States Postal Service with return receipt service.

The Act allows that, when a person furnishes a signed statement under penalty of perjury that he or someone in his behalf has given this notice, the financial institution in which a safe deposit box of a decedent is located shall permit entry into the box and removal of its contents, without the presence of a department or bank employee.

(1) The Notice must include:
a. the name of estate and person entering the box,
b. the name and street address of the financial institution in which the box is located, and
c. the date and time of entry.

(2) The Notice must be:
a. delivered via United States Postal Service, return receipt service
b. copied to the financial institution in which the box is located
c. sent at least seven days in advance to:
PA Dept of Revenue
Safe Deposit Box Unit
P.O. Box 280601
Harrisburg, PA 17128-0601
The Department's bulletin was announced in its Tax Update, April/May 2011 (Issue No. 155), on pages 5 & 6, which provided a further explanation:
At the time of entry, the estate representative must also provide a statement to the financial institution attesting the notice was sent to the department, with the following or similar language:
Under penalties of perjury I swear that I gave the notice required under Section 2193 of the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act, 72 PS § 9193, to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, via United States Postal Service, of my intention to enter this safe deposit box on today’s date.
Within 20 days of entry, the estate representative must also return a completed Safe Deposit Box Inventory form, REV-485, to the department’s Safe Deposit Box Unit.
That inventory reporting form, REV-485 ("Safe Deposit Box Inventory"), revised May, 2004, is available online.