Just about everyone has seen or heard the public service messages in which the federal government reminds people to apply for food stamps. It's hard to imagine a bigger waste of taxpayers' dollars than to encourage freeloaders to line up for the entitlement dole.
The analogy isn't perfect, but it inevitably comes to mind as we ponder County Commissioner Tom Mercer's effort to persuade county tax officials to do more to help senior citizens seek tax exemptions.
Mercer is carrying the banner on behalf of an 80-year-old Martinez resident, who recently complained in a letter to the editor that the current notices about senior school tax exemptions aren't widespread enough - even though he proceeded to list five places where information on the exemptions has been available.
Mercer wants the tax office to also include information about the exemptions on each tax bill, so it's literally in hand for every senior taxpayer.
The answer should be no. In fact, the answer should go beyond that - because the exemptions should not exist at all.
Any special interest that gets a tax exemption - and seniors, as a demographic category, have the highest net worth of any age group - forces non-exempt taxpayers to shoulder a heavier burden. The fairest tax policy treats all taxpayers equally, without politically popular favors granted only to the squeakiest wheels or the best-connected.
It's unfair enough that the majority of taxpayers pay higher taxes to make up for this little sweetheart perk. It adds needless insult to injury to suggest that those getting the favor need their hands held to lead them to it.
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