Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unnecessary Changes in Tax Proposal Threaten Vulnerable Missourians

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unnecessary Changes in Tax Proposal Threaten Vulnerable Missourians

Article excerpt

Despite rejecting a similar proposal two years ago, Missouri lawmakers are considering legislation that would essentially raise taxes on nearly 105,000 vulnerable Missouri seniors and people with disabilities, including more than 33,000 in the St. Louis area, by eliminating a modest tax credit that is critical to keeping them in their homes. Legislators should protect these vulnerable populations and oppose any legislation that eliminates renters from eligibility for this credit.

As proposed, state budgets drafted by both the governor and a House committee rely on devastating changes to the "circuit breaker" property tax credit, a cost-effective tool that helps certain low- income individuals secure accessible housing and remain independent. Missouri seniors, veterans and people living with disabilities can qualify for the credit if their annual incomes are below $27,500 if single, and $29,500 if married.

Although the renters eligible for the credit don't pay their property taxes directly, they do pay in the form of higher rents. In fact, Missourians in the bottom 20 percent of income already pay nearly twice as much in property taxes as a share of their income as the highest-income 1 percent of Missouri residents. Increasing property taxes on low-income renters by excluding them from the circuit breaker would make this imbalance even worse. Nationally, recognizing that landlords pass on their property taxes to tenants, 16 of the 18 states with a similar tax credit include renters in their eligibility.

The small financial boost of the credit can make the critical decision of whether seniors, veterans and people living with disabilities are able to stay in their homes and weather financial challenges that could otherwise upend their lives. Although the credit averages a modest $534 annually for renters, it is critical to low-income seniors, veterans and people with disabilities who may have few housing options. …

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