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Task force considers senior tax exemption

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2006

The Senior Sales Tax Exemption Task Force will meet Tuesday to hammer out its final recommendations for the tax break's future.

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There are three options, Chairman Randy Wanamaker said. Options 1 and 2 recommend change, while the third option phases the program out entirely, he said.

"We are responsible to treat all citizens fairly and equitably, not disproportionately," Wanamaker said. "Seniors are in a good position with a safety net around them and taking this exemption away will not make or break them."

The task force was asked by the Juneau Finance Committee to develop an option to eliminate the exemption. It asked the public to comment on five possible options: grandfather in eligible Juneau seniors; offer a rebate for eligible seniors; give an exemption for low-income seniors; offer a rebate for low-income seniors; or replace the exemption with payments to Juneau seniors.

"Options 1 and 2 give seniors an exemption when they are most likely to need financial assistance, which is age 75 and over," Wanamaker said. "The last option phases it out, but grandfathers in seniors who are 65 at the end of this year."

Wanamaker said all proposed options eliminate exemptions for nonresidents. They also grandfather in seniors, he said.

"I personally hope the Assembly leaves the tax exemption as is," task force member Lorilyn Swanson said. "I also hope they look at all the recommendations seniors have made."

It takes a certain amount of revenue to have decent city services, Wanamaker said.

"If not all parties are contributing, then certain people have to pick up the slack," Wanamaker said. "It is falling on people who are not 65."

Lost revenue will grow as baby boomers come of age for the tax break, Wanamaker said.

"I hope Assembly members will listen carefully to their constituents," Swanson said. "I hope the sales-tax exemption for those who live in Juneau will not change until looked at further down the line in two years."



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