Real Property Tax Relief for the Elderly

This article focuses on the elderly person’s problem of coping with real property taxation. Although property taxes vary in intensity from place to place, the elderly bear a particularly heavy burden. The property tax generally does not reflect a taxpayer’s ability to pay, since it is usually levied in proportion to the value of real property rather than in relation to a homeowner’s income. Thus people with low incomes may have to pay a greater percentage of their incomes as real property tax than people with higher incomes. The real property tax can be a formidable problem for an elderly person sentimentally attached to his home, but lacking the money to keep the tax collector at bay and simultaneously to provide for the necessities of life. This article examines governmental efforts to solve this problem, assuming that the elderly should be insulated from crippling real property taxation and that government action is desirable to accomplish this goal. The various options before- the federal government for providing relief will be discussed against the background of recent state action. The proposals are confined to those providing substantive relief specifically for the elderly.