Policy experts urge scrutiny of senior tax breaks

February 27, 2009

The latest installment of Public Policy & Aging Report (PPAR) examines the wide-ranging tax provisions that affect older taxpayers. These include deductions, exemptions, deferrals, and circuit breakers, most of which benefit older adults. This subject matter has particular relevance as President Barack Obama prepares a plan that may eliminate income tax for persons aged 65 and older who earn less than $50,000.

"In the present environment, where federal, state, and local governments' budgets are under enormous stress, the tax treatment of older people is clearly worth a careful review," said PPAR Editor Robert Hudson, PhD.

The new PPAR devotes four articles to addressing the twin questions of how tax codes differentially affect older people than others and whether such treatment is consistent with the original intent of these provisions. Among the authors are economists Karen Conway, PhD, and Jonathan Rork, PhD; Urban Institute Fellow Rudolph Penner, PhD; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyst Elizabeth McNichol, MA; and AARP Policy Institute scholars John Gist, PhD, and David Baer.

Currently, over half the states exempt Social Security income from taxes; half exempt some or all private pension income; and two-thirds exempt some or all government pension income. For nearly 50 years, the federal government never taxed Social Security income; now many middle-income and all high-income seniors have that income partially taxed.
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This issue of PPAR, published by the National Academy on an Aging Society, is titled "Aging and Tax Policy" and can be purchased at http://www.agingsociety.org.

The National Academy on an Aging Society is the policy branch of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society -- and its 5,500+ members -- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA's structure also includes an educational branch, the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education.

The Gerontological Society of America

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