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Tax policy: what do you think of exempting retired seniors' income under, say, $90,000?


SKL
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Wealth is wealth.  If they acquired it by good means, like working and saving, that is great!  They have the wealth now, one way or another.  Pretending that old people are poorer than the young is just not accurate.  In this country, right now, old people (and boomers) have more money than the young.

 

This is because they had defined-benefit pensions, didn't have to go into debt to put their kids through school, were lucky enough to live through the time where housing prices skyrocketed (after most of them had bought one) so their main asset increased hugely in price...

 

The people retiring in the next 10 years are a whole different bunch.  The fact that they aren't as well off now as a lot of seniors also means they don't have savings to last them through retirement, and pensions outside of gov't jobs have become a unicorn.  And they want to cut SS?  And drug prices are going through the roof...

 

I keep wondering what's going to happen to all those assisted living places.  No one's going to be able to afford to live in them in just a few more years...  are we thinking of solving the aging population problem by starvation and hypothermia, because it looks to me like that's where it's headed...

 

And our kids' generation, most coming out of school with a mountain of debt, not being able to save for retirement or a house because of it, who unless things change will have to also figure out how to put their kids through school though they've been paying off their own debt instead of saving... how are they going to manage 'retirement'?  

 

I keep hoping we'll just keep working, but that all depends on health and someone being willing to employ older people...

Edited by Matryoshka
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And no, I haven't heard older people complaining about this.  I am complaining on their behalf.  I complain when kids have to take a hundred standardized tests, and when mentally ill people can't get services, and when older people have to go through all kinds of pointless hassle to accomplish what should be basic tasks.

 

The point is that we don't all agree that a retired person making $89,000/year paying taxes is a pointless hassle. Seriously, I'd like to make $89,000/year now. Our household income isn't even close. Yes, it'd be nice to make tax law easier, as well as a lot of other laws. Which is very, very different than saying "retired seniors with an income under $90k should be tax exempt".

 

In some other spots you mention having them pay taxes one time, when they retire, but that raises the problem of "do they have enough money to pay a big sum at once", "who guarantees that 5-10 years later someone else doesn't come along and decide they have to pay taxes anyway", "if you live to 90 you'd make more money off your investments than if you live to 66", etc. Just not practical, imo.

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Just to clarify are we talking $90,000 per senior or per household. Because if it's per senior you are possibly talking a household income of $180,000 in an age group were most don't have mortgages etc. I am sure that except in extreme circumstances people in these situations can afford someone to do their taxes. We don't have anywhere near that income for five people, we have a mortgage and all the expenses that go into keeping a job and we still pay a massive whack of tax. If we were talking say 30-40,000 I'd maybe give some credit to the idea.

 

You are talking about people not having compassion on seniors and I don't think that's what this is about. It's actually about some fairly wealthy people paying less tax which then needs to be made up by those who are struggling.

Edited by Ausmumof3
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We have a 1040EZ for young filers with no dependents. We could have a 1040SR with just the most common items senior citizens need to deal with (social security, pension distributions, earning interest, etc.) and try to make it simpler for some of them.

 

 

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If your father has five figures in his IRA, I presume that he is not earning $150K or $90K in annual income--that was your starting basis for this discussion.  I really feel there is some disconnect in your posts.

 

I have great sympathy for seniors who cannot keep up with rising property taxes or healthcare costs.  But those earning $90K from their investments can afford to sell a few shares of stock or one of their properties to ease their burden. That is more than a "few bucks in the bank".

 

 

No, my folks are nowhere near either of those numbers.

 

But I've done work for others who receive more, and I find that the amount of tax they actually pay after all is said and done is small compared to the trouble they take to do it.  OK so people were getting rubbed wrong by the 6 figure number, so I reduced it to $90,000, an amount that would include the majority of retired seniors without requiring a huge adjustment somewhere else in the tax code.  Maybe the right number is a little less than $90,000, but I believe that it isn't worth all that hassle to collect small amounts of tax from retired seniors.

 

Again, this isn't about poverty.  It's about a massive paperwork burden that just isn't worth it.  People who have a healthy amount in their retirement funds can just make a one-time filing/payment and be done with it.  Only the payment should reflect an average expected earning amount over the course of their retirement, i.e., if the total amount in the fund is $100,000, they should not be taxed at the regular rate for $100,000; because that $100,000 would probably not attract any tax if received (and taxed) over the next 20 years.

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My concern isn't that people will blame me for how the country fares when my generation is in power; my concern is that my generation manages the country well in that time and that we leave a decent economic situation for our kids and grandkids.  Voting is not contingent on education or social/economic class.  I would be fine with it if it were!  But I suspect I am in the vast minority in that opinion :)

 

I can imagine myself making $90,000/year as an old person with $200K in the bank.  I cannot imagine asking young people with nothing, making $50,000/yr, to subsidize (more than they already do) government spending on my behalf.

 

If I were an elderly person making $25,000/year with no assets, I can see not wanting to pay much in taxes, because in that case I would actually be poor!

 

OK for about the 10th time, I am not talking about amount of tax.  I am not talking about shifting economic tax responsibility.

 

And I certainly don't worry about people blaming me for what Washington does when I am older.  I can only cast one vote, and I don't get to vote on what they do, only who (generally) does it.  There are many things that happen in this country that bother me.  I'm not to blame for that.

 

This thread is enlightening, though, in that it makes me feel like I need to protect myself that much more against what people will do to me when I'm defenseless in old age.  Blame me for everything, turn a deaf ear to my [non-economic] difficulties, and decry my "wealth" which I have saved so I won't be a burden on society.

 

It strikes me that this is also the generation that often doesn't give up its seat or hold the door for an elderly person.

Edited by SKL
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Just to clarify are we talking $90,000 per senior or per household. Because if it's per senior you are possibly talking a household income of $180,000 in an age group were most don't have mortgages etc. I am sure that except in extreme circumstances people in these situations can afford someone to do their taxes. We don't have anywhere near that income for five people, we have a mortgage and all the expenses that go into keeping a job and we still pay a massive whack of tax. If we were talking say 30-40,000 I'd maybe give some credit to the idea.

 

You are talking about people not having compassion on seniors and I don't think that's what this is about. It's actually about some fairly wealthy people paying less tax which then needs to be made up by those who are struggling.

 

Per household, before all deductions, exemptions, credits, etc. and including distributions of both after-tax and pre-tax income (and SS income).

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In some other spots you mention having them pay taxes one time, when they retire, but that raises the problem of "do they have enough money to pay a big sum at once", "who guarantees that 5-10 years later someone else doesn't come along and decide they have to pay taxes anyway", "if you live to 90 you'd make more money off your investments than if you live to 66", etc. Just not practical, imo.

 

The one-time tax would come out of the corpus of the retirement fund, not out of the senior's checking account.

 

I agree it's impossible to predict how long one will live or when one will need the money, but that is true regarding all retirement income decisions.  The amount of annuities the IRS requires to be paid/taxed is not a perfect measure of reality either.

 

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The one-time tax would come out of the corpus of the retirement fund, not out of the senior's checking account.

 

I agree it's impossible to predict how long one will live or when one will need the money, but that is true regarding all retirement income decisions. The amount of annuities the IRS requires to be paid/taxed is not a perfect measure of reality either.

 

You realize that taking a large lump sum out of a retirement fund at the start of retirement would have a significant negative impact on the earnings of the fund over time, right?

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You realize that taking a large lump sum out of a retirement fund at the start of retirement would have a significant negative impact on the earnings of the fund over time, right?

 

Yeah, but in reality it would not be a large lump sum.  For most middle-class and working-class people it would be little or nothing, if the tax is computed right.

Edited by SKL
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Not if you are taxing a 401k of $200,000-$1,000,000, which is not an unreasonable range for a middle class retiree.

 

I still think it would be better for people in modest income groups.  They have still enjoyed the benefit of deferring tax during their high-earning years.  And now they won't have to fuss annually with tax software or hiring a CPA or however else they would figure out retirement income taxation. 

 

One could adjust the tax rate downward (interest adjustment) to recognize that the IRS is getting its money sooner, but on the other hand, it was already deferred for years with no upward rate adjustment.  So I am not too worried about that.

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But those of us who have grown up online probably won't experience this.

 

It's hard to predict what things will be like when we get that old.  On one hand, we are more tech savvy.  On the other hand, internet safety is getting more and more iffy.

 

And of the 4 seniors I annually help with their taxes, 2 are legally blind and a 3rd is dyslexic.  The 4th is a spouse who only has limited part-time work experience and freaks out at the thought of managing her husband's paperwork from his jobs.  This year, one of the two couples was in the hospital (her) / rehab (him) when I was supposed to come over and do the taxes.

 

When I'm 75/85/95, I sure hope I still have all my faculties and can whip out my computerized taxes no problem, but I really don't know.

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I haven't read all the responses, but the subject line has my attention, in this way:  $90,000 is a lot of income for seniors.  After kids are flown, no college.  Many people have their mortgages paid off by this time, and even if they don't, they have a lot of equity in the home.   Medicare covers a lot of the health expenses....a lot more than my insurance does.  Seniors tend to have their clothes, household furnishings, and so on, so don't need much in that way.  I'm not saying it isn't NICE to get new clothes, nor am I saying that seniors should not buy clothes...I'm observing the seniors I know.

 

The seniors I know live quite comfortably on an income that is under $30,000, both paying rent for apartments.  The income is produced by social security in one case and investment income in another.  We have seen the same reduction in expenses as we have passed certain milestones, but it is a long slope...less than it used to be, not a little as it will need to be long-term...but we are working on that.  

 

My mother has long been of the thought that if seniors have a personal income above a certain dollar amount, they should not get social security.   Yes, they paid in, but at some point, SS was supposed to be a safety net, not a retirement plan.  

 

Ramblings...

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When I'm 75/85/95, I sure hope I still have all my faculties and can whip out my computerized taxes no problem, but I really don't know.

 

Again, there are blind people of any age who have to file taxes. There are people with all sorts of disabilities (physical or mental) of any age. If I had to file our taxes all of a sudden I'd freak out too, though my wife says it's pretty easy, and I'm 31. I've got generalized anxiety disorder. But you can't simply say that everyone with any kind of physical or mental disability should simply not pay taxes.

 

The library has heaps of paper tax forms. Maybe the post office does, not a clue. I'm pretty sure I've also seen volunteers at the library at certain times to help people with their taxes - not sure.

 

But anyhow, if you want to lobby for something like this, I'd suggest contacting the AARP, since they are big enough that they have lobbying power.

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This age for the most part didn't jump on the computer bandwagon decades ago, and may never have used one much beyond checking email. 

 

At 85 & 86 years old, my parents are "this age." People "this age" were working when computer use became commonplace. People "this age" wrote computer programs that were in use decades ago. People "this age" were the first to use desktop computers.  People "this age" put men on the moon and the space shuttle into orbit. People "this age" are using their tablets to Skype with their great-grandchildren and read books. People "this age" have internet access when they go to rehab after that hip replacement. Generally speaking, people "this age" are not afraid of computers or other technology. 

 

It's interesting how stereotyped elderly people are when it comes to computer use and technology. I have never met an elderly person that is afraid of using technology. They have seen quite a bit during their lifetimes and are very accepting of the fact that things change. 

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Again, there are blind people of any age who have to file taxes. There are people with all sorts of disabilities (physical or mental) of any age. If I had to file our taxes all of a sudden I'd freak out too, though my wife says it's pretty easy, and I'm 31. I've got generalized anxiety disorder. But you can't simply say that everyone with any kind of physical or mental disability should simply not pay taxes.

 

The library has heaps of paper tax forms. Maybe the post office does, not a clue. I'm pretty sure I've also seen volunteers at the library at certain times to help people with their taxes - not sure.

 

But anyhow, if you want to lobby for something like this, I'd suggest contacting the AARP, since they are big enough that they have lobbying power.

Actually, more and more libraries in my area are no longer receiving any paper forms or booklets. The volunteers who helped with tax assistance were the VITA volunteers mentioned earlier in this thread.

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At 85 & 86 years old, my parents are "this age." People "this age" were working when computer use became commonplace. People "this age" wrote computer programs that were in use decades ago. People "this age" were the first to use desktop computers.  People "this age" put men on the moon and the space shuttle into orbit. People "this age" are using their tablets to Skype with their great-grandchildren and read books. People "this age" have internet access when they go to rehab after that hip replacement. Generally speaking, people "this age" are not afraid of computers or other technology. 

 

It's interesting how stereotyped elderly people are when it comes to computer use and technology. I have never met an elderly person that is afraid of using technology. They have seen quite a bit during their lifetimes and are very accepting of the fact that things change. 

 

I think it partly depends on whether people stayed in/re-entered the workforce. My father stayed up to date with computers whilst my mother (who didn't work outside the home after she married in the mid-Fifties) did not. They divorced in the 1970s.  She thought of computers as too expensive and also unnecessary for her.  Now, at 91, she is just concentrating on the basics of medicines, appointments and managing her own life.

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What it seems you're arguing for isn't just to shelter income from taxes, but also to defer the annual filing, which I don't find convincing. I can't see how any taxpayer, whatever the age, gets around the filing requirement. How does the IRS know a taxpayer is meeting the legal requirements, unless that person files the paperwork?

 

For all this discussion, seniors are still going to need to prove their income is low ($90,000 household income isn't low). Elderly need to show their income sources and those with retirement accounts, need to prove their withdrawals meet the minimum requirements so they aren't sheltering assets for their heirs.

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What it seems you're arguing for isn't just to shelter income from taxes, but also to defer the annual filing, which I don't find convincing. I can't see how any taxpayer, whatever the age, gets around the filing requirement. How does the IRS know a taxpayer is meeting the legal requirements, unless that person files the paperwork?

 

For all this discussion, seniors are still going to need to prove their income is low ($90,000 household income isn't low). Elderly need to show their income sources and those with retirement accounts, need to prove their withdrawals meet the minimum requirements so they aren't sheltering assets for their heirs.

 

You do know that there are many Americans who are not required to file taxes?  They are still subject to audit.  The IRS receives information on income via Forms W-2 and 1099 and K-1 and others.  The IRS knows if you have received income above a certain level.  If their computers show your income is above XXXXX and you didn't report it, you will get a letter and you have to come up with an explanation.

 

You are apparently not understanding my argument as you keep saying I'm trying to shelter income from taxes, when that is not what I have said.  I have given up after many attempts to explain that.

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At 85 & 86 years old, my parents are "this age." People "this age" were working when computer use became commonplace. People "this age" wrote computer programs that were in use decades ago. People "this age" were the first to use desktop computers.  People "this age" put men on the moon and the space shuttle into orbit. People "this age" are using their tablets to Skype with their great-grandchildren and read books. People "this age" have internet access when they go to rehab after that hip replacement. Generally speaking, people "this age" are not afraid of computers or other technology. 

 

It's interesting how stereotyped elderly people are when it comes to computer use and technology. I have never met an elderly person that is afraid of using technology. They have seen quite a bit during their lifetimes and are very accepting of the fact that things change. 

 

Well, I don't think it is entirely a stereotype.  There is still a huge demand for computer classes for seniors in our library system.

 

My grandfather, who is 89, doesn't touch computers.  Which is funny because he worked for many years as a computer programmer, starting back with punch cards.  But he's never had a pc, doesn't use the computers at his senior's residence, he doesn't even do email.  It doesn't seem to be that unusual in his social group - they just seem to prefer to meet people in person and fill out forms by hand.

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You do know that there are many Americans who are not required to file taxes? They are still subject to audit. The IRS receives information on income via Forms W-2 and 1099 and K-1 and others. The IRS knows if you have received income above a certain level. If their computers show your income is above XXXXX and you didn't report it, you will get a letter and you have to come up with an explanation.

 

You are apparently not understanding my argument as you keep saying I'm trying to shelter income from taxes, when that is not what I have said. I have given up after many attempts to explain that.

I'm well aware that people earning current income, well below the level in your revised OP, don't have to file taxes.

 

If you are talking about not reporting withdrawals from 401ks or traditional or rollover IRAs (the type of investment account you've discussed hasn't always been clear), it is sheltering prior untaxed income from taxes. No matter the seniors' current income level, that income, in these types of accounts, was never taxed going in so it should be taxed on withdrawal. In addition, minimum distributions are required so that, again, the income isn't sheltered from taxes. I'm not sure how else you would define avoiding paying income taxes.

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I'm well aware that people earning current income, well below the level in your revised OP, don't have to file taxes.

 

If you are talking about not reporting withdrawals from 401ks or traditional or rollover IRAs (the type of investment account you've discussed hasn't always been clear), it is sheltering prior untaxed income from taxes. No matter the seniors' current income level, that income, in these types of accounts, was never taxed going in so it should be taxed on withdrawal. In addition, minimum distributions are required so that, again, the income isn't sheltered from taxes. I'm not sure how else you would define avoiding paying income taxes.

 

You missed the many times I proposed that they could be taxed one time upon a certain age, e.g. 65 or 70 or when the person stops getting W-2 income, or that the rules for deferral could be changed to make taxation fair without requiring so much of a filing burden.  (A one time tax would need to apply a special tax rate that considers the income is intended to be spread out over some decades.)

 

As a matter of fact, people do get taxed on what they didn't withdraw if they don't take their RMD, under the current rules.  So there is precedent for taxing retirement savings at a time other than when the cash goes in or out.

 

Further, as I've said many times, there are other kinds of retirement income besides tax-deferred amounts.

 

Why am I bothering to explain over and over?

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At 85 & 86 years old, my parents are "this age." People "this age" were working when computer use became commonplace. People "this age" wrote computer programs that were in use decades ago. People "this age" were the first to use desktop computers.  People "this age" put men on the moon and the space shuttle into orbit. People "this age" are using their tablets to Skype with their great-grandchildren and read books. People "this age" have internet access when they go to rehab after that hip replacement. Generally speaking, people "this age" are not afraid of computers or other technology. 

 

Well, I think your parents are the exception.  My parents are younger than yours (78 and 80).  My dad was a mechanical engineer.  He did manual drafting, never learned CAD.  My mom was a school teacher.  Neither of them are dummies.

 

They do have a computer, they do use it.  My mom goes practically weekly to the Apple store for lessons.  She uses her computer for email and photo manipulation, mostly.  And Skype - she loves that.

 

And yet... they are terrified of the thing.  If anything goes wrong, they call us up and ask if we 'did' anything to it when we were last there. (uh, no).  The other day the printer had a problem, and I asked her to paste the text into another application to see if would print from there.  "I don't have Word".  No, but you have some kind of application that can process text.  "No".  "Yes, you do.  They don't sell computers without some kind of text manipulation software."  She finally found Pages (I don't have a Mac, I didn't know what it was called).  Then I had to explain Copy/Paste to her.  For the millionth time.     :banghead:

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No, I don't think we should make it easier to pass on wealth than it already is.  Who would benefit from taking these funds from federal programs so that they can go into the next generations pockets? If anything, give those young people a break, a chance to use the inheritance to really make something for themselves.

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Not tax related, but decades ago, we bought my grandma a small microwave for Christmas.  Microwaves weren't ridiculously new, but lots of people still didn't have one.  We also gave her microwave-safe dishes and told her the basics of how to use it.  I later asked how she liked it.  My dad said that she was afraid to use it.  She was afraid she'd make a mistake and blow up the house.  Oh well.

 

My parents are not computer illiterate, but they still get anxiety over stuff they can't control, and they still have problems that make reading very very hard for both of them.  They have dial-up internet.  I bought my mom a very nice reader thingy for Christmas, partly so that she could benefit from large print and easy internet access.  But my dad is afraid to set it up without all sorts of safeguards which he is still researching.  He thinks wireless is just too risky.  Maybe he's right, I don't know, but that's not something I worry much about.

 

I guess if you have all your money in an account that can be accessed online, and it's all you're going to have until you die, you might worry more about that money disappearing.  Or maybe it's just something about ageing or who knows what.

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It does bear repeating that our population has a very large aging bubble. Giving them too many tax breaks while piling more taxes on middle and lower income younger generations of people in the work force is not a good solution to much of any problems.

 

Corporations, on the other hand, don't have kids to raise and don't have to worry about growing old. Tax them. 

I agree and the corporate tax loopholes in this nation are so huge many planets have a smaller circumference!

 

At one point here in Michigan, DTE was netting nearly a billion dollars a year and paying practically no taxes into the state. Unbelievable. Oh and putting up wind farms with federal tax dollars, promising to pay the counties and farmers a portion of the revenue generated, then getting away with not paying what they promised. GRRRR....more corporate welfare for them.

 

Frankly, even though we have a healthy income, with aging parents going bankrupt, and eventually three boys in college at once, as middle class citizens we need a break. We pay and pay and pay into the system and our kids get nothing to help them go to college. Not a dime. Our schools and communities keep eliminating programs that would have been beneficial to our kids forcing us to pay gobs of money for full priced DE, traveling hither and yon to get their extra curriculars, and all with an infrastructure that is falling apart and corporations and fat cats keep getting fatter while my husband works longer and longer and longer hours. It leaves us wondering, "Just what are we getting for our tax dollars?" Really? Reduced police, reduced, EMS, reduced education, increased college tuition/room/board, reduced community services across the board, roads and bridges falling apart, shorter and shorter hours at government offices with long lines due to reduced employee numbers and hours, .....it is absolutely nuts.

 

It is time to go after corporations so they pay their fair share and especially as they are big consumers of local services, utilities, etc. They need to pay in to maintain the infrastructure they so readily use to their profit.

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It's not like older people haven't made any previous contribution to the common good.

You have no idea if they have or not. Being old doesn't automatically mean they were ever much of a philanthropist or even a generally active citizen. Just like I wouldn't presume younger people haven't made previous contribution to the common good.

 

No matter what good a 30-50 year old has contributed in the past, no one cares much about making our lives any easier.

 

While an elderly person has declining health they also don't have many other very stressful and expensive factors. Like being sandwiched between raising kids and helping elderly parents and holding down a job. But no one seems to think those people deserve any special tax breaks.

 

I'm all for making the tax code simplified.

 

I'm kinda done with giving one of our largest demographics more special tax breaks though.

Edited by Murphy101
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We don't have any elderly relatives who are scared of technology or online banking.

 

In fact well into their 90s, some of them are still making investment decisions online and buying smart phones and new computers. Sometimes they ask for help setting it all up, but that's mostly bc of older body aches and pains making it difficult to do things like get on their knees and connect cables behind computers or whatever.

 

They do ask for more help bc thy are nervous about misunderstanding something but they are very eager to be engaged and connected with technology.

 

My dad (78) is probably the worst bc he has the least education to begin with (6th grade was the farthest he went) and he still makes international investments via online banking and has an iPhone. He never texts and sometimes deletes stuff off his phone unintentionally bc of vision or literacy issues, but you'd have to pry that thing out of his cold dead hand since he discovered it's camera feature and he ability to go anywhere online with it. He isn't as fast on it as I am of course but he isn't scared of t or completely tech illiterate either.

Edited by Murphy101
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I just think the argument for simplification is a much better one than the argument for no taxes on the elderly; a simplified tax code would be a benefit not only to the elderly, but also to poor people who can't pay for tax assistance (and therefore may not be getting all the $ through tax refunds/free money that they could), people who have some $ but aren't very bright and have to pay for tax help, corporations who presumably would have a less complicated code to maneuver around and fleece the rest of us with, and small businesses, for whom tax help is expensive but the tax code is also pretty complicated.

 

None of that is really an argument for taking money from the young, who are on the whole poorer (often by many many times!) and giving it to the old, who are on the whole richer.

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I heard something today that would address some of the OP's original concern about the elderly completing tax forms. It would actually address concerns across the population with completing complicated tax forms.  I was in the car earlier and heard a story on NPR about the potential to have return free filing. This would be where the federal government uses the information that is already provided to it by employers and the banking industry to estimate the amount of taxes that should be paid each year, notifies the taxpayer of the estimated amount and the taxpayer can either agree with them or choose to complete their taxes on their own (or hire someone to do so for them).

 

I can't find the exact story I heard today, unfortunately. Maybe it will re-air and I can link it later. I did find these stories from a couple of years ago.

 

How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing

 

Taxes Without Returns: Pipe Dream or Possibility

 

 

 

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