A government policy that places the cost burden onto one generation by removing the responsibility from another generation, regardless of their ability to pay, is wrong. Without a doubt, there is a big challenge facing all levels of government during this time of population aging. Housing, transportation, health services and so on are challenged to address the needs of everyone in society fairly while also being fiscally prudent. Shifting tax burdens or reducing key services based on age, such as reaching age 65, is not the answer.
One of the responsibilities of owning property is paying property taxes. These taxes build and maintain infrastructure, support policing and other services and transfer monies to provincial authorities for education, health and so on. Each property owner owes these taxes even if they do not use specific services or infrastructure. The result is a community that benefits everyone.
Is age appropriate when considering tax exemptions and rebates?
There is an increasing number of home owners who are age 65 and older. Although the senior home owner will not be a direct beneficiary of the local schools they benefit from successful education programs that help children mature into contributing adults. Simply being a non-user of services or infrastructure does not provide an adequate reason for exempting an individual from taxes. If this were the case, then all adults who are childless would also be exempt from paying public school taxes.
A Risky Policy – Manitoba’s Property Tax Approach
The Province of Manitoba has pledged to eliminate school taxes for seniors (age 65+) by 2016. This recently announced property tax rebate program accompanies the existing Education Tax Rebate program. “Howard [Finance Minister] said the goal of the rebate is to allow seniors to afford to stay in their own homes longer as property values and property taxes increase. “This will help them hopefully stay in that home and enjoy a good life,” she said.” 1
Government Policy is Fuelling Intergenerational Conflict
Manitoba’s tax policy suggests that the provision of public education is the sole responsibility of those under age 65. The flip-side of the argument could suggest that seniors’ centres, long term care facilities and other programs and infrastructure that serve older adults are the funding responsibility of those age 65 and over. This is divisive and detrimental to community success. Furthermore where is the evidence that property taxes are a primary cause of housing unaffordability for seniors?
We’ve come to accept that it really does take a village to raise a child. Over the next few decades we will also learn that it takes a village to honour and assist the aging. Every community member must be considered equal – regardless of age.
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