By State Representatives Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain), Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) and Sandra Scott (D-Rex)
In our society, where homeownership is often considered a symbol of financial security and stability, property taxes can be a heavy burden, especially for elderly citizens living on fixed incomes. Many older individuals and couples find themselves struggling to pay property taxes, which can sometimes be relatively modest amounts, typically less than $5,000 per year. We will explore the challenges faced by elderly citizens in meeting their property tax obligations, and we hope to raise important questions about the ethics and implications of forcing these individuals out of their homes due to unpaid taxes.
Living on Fixed Incomes
Elderly citizens are a vulnerable demographic, often relying on fixed incomes, such as social security, pensions or retirement savings to cover their daily expenses. For many of them, their homes are not just a place to live; homes are a source of comfort and a symbol of lifelong achievement. However, as property values rise and property tax rates increase, it becomes increasingly difficult for these individuals to keep up with their tax obligations.
The $1,000 to $5,000 Dilemma
When elderly citizens owe property taxes in the range of $1,000 to $5,000, it raises important questions about the fairness and morality of enforcing tax collection though means that may lead to homelessness.
Here are some key considerations:
1. Diminished income: Most elderly citizens do not have the opportunity to increase their income. As property taxes rise, it becomes harder for them to allocate a significant portion of their fixed income to cover these expenses.
2. Property value vs. tax: The discrepancy between the value of a property and the taxes owed can be disproportionate, especially in areas with rapidly rising property values. This can create an unfair situation where homeowners are penalized for factors beyond their control.
3. Societal implications: Forcing elderly citizens out of their homes due to unpaid property taxes has social consequences. It can result in homelessness, stress and a reduced quality of life for individuals who should be able to enjoy their retirement in peace.
4. Public benefit: It is important to question whether the public truly benefits from tax sales of homes owned by elderly citizens who owe relatively small amounts. In many cases, the public may not profit significantly, and the cost of enforcing these sales may outweigh the financial gains.
Instead of pushing elderly citizens out of their homes for relatively small tax debts, there are alternative solutions that should be explored:
- Tax relief programs: Governments can establish or expand tax relief programs specifically targeted at elderly citizens. These programs could include tax deferrals, exemptions or reductions based on income levels.
- Payment plans: Offering flexible payment plans can ease the financial burden on elderly homeowners, allowing them to pay their property taxes over time, rather than in a lump sum.
- Community support: Communities and local organizations can provide assistance to elderly citizens facing tax difficulties by offering financial counseling or connecting them with resources that can help.
- Reevaluation of tax systems: Local governments should periodically evaluate their property tax systems to ensure fairness and consider the impact on elderly citizens. Adjustments may be necessary to better align tax rates with the ability to pay.
Our elderly citizens deserve respect and support as they enter their retirement years. Forcing them out of their homes due to unpaid property taxes, especially when the amounts owed are relatively small, is not just a financial issue but also a moral one. It is our responsibility as a society to find compassionate solutions that allow elderly citizens to age in place with dignity and peace of mind. By reevaluating our tax systems and implementing targeted support, we can ensure that our elderly population is not unfairly burdened by property taxes and the threat of homelessness.
Representative Viola Davis represents the citizens of District 87, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves on the Defense & Veterans Affairs, Insurance, Interstate Cooperation, Natural Resources & Environment and Urban Affairs committees.
Representative Kim Schofield represents the citizens of District 63, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2017 and currently serves as the Secretary of the Urban Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Creative Arts & Entertainment, Health, Interstate Cooperation and Small Business Development committees.
Representative Sandra Scott represents the citizens of District 76, which includes portions of Clayton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Minority Caucus Chief Deputy Whip. She also serves on the Banks & Banking, Defense & Veterans Affairs, Human Relations & Aging, Insurance and Reapportionment and Redistricting committees.