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home : opinion : letters to the editor August 20, 2014

2/13/2014 11:14:00 AM
Indiana's Property Tax Is Unfair, Discriminatory

Editor, Times-Union:
We all know that the government must levy taxes in order to operate. The Indiana income tax is a fair tax because the income tax is smaller if a family earns less income. Unfortunately, the State of Indiana relies heavily on the property tax, which is rife with inequality and discrimination.
Our home was built in 1967, and as such, has been providing a stream of property tax revenue to the state for more than 46 years. But, our home is likened to new or newer homes of similar features when it comes to the value placed on our home for property tax purposes. This is overtly discriminatory. A home built in 2012 may have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but the 2012 home has not provided a stream of tax revenue that the home which was built in 1967 has provided.
Many practical examples of this exist. I know of a family which lived for many years on a lake. Much of the lake home was constructed by the homeowner. But, after residing in their home for several decades, the property tax became unbearable and the home had to be sold. Here was a working man and his family forced out of his home by taxes because lake homes are now given huge valuations.
The argument is that the older home would sell for such and such a value, so therefore we will tax it at that inflated value. This is wrong. It assumes that a family’s home is for sale, when it is not for sale. Just because it might sell for a given amount of money, is not justification for taxing it at an inflated value.
It is like a protection racket in a large city. A criminal gang requires a monthly fee from a shop owner under threat of violence against the owner or the property. Then, as the neighborhood prospers, the gang ups the ante and requires more money to ensure the “safety” of the business.
Taxes should not unduly punish or restrict a family’s ability to keep their primary personal residence simply because the cost of building a home increases through time. Houses have a life span, yet in today’s Indiana property tax system, an older home which has been taxed for many years gets, in effect, reclassified to a much higher value as a new or newer home even as it ages and requires major repairs and renovation.
I realize that there is a property tax cap for retirees in Indiana, but even that is discriminatory, because there are arbitrary income limits to qualify for a 2 percent per year cap on increases in the property tax. No break if you are too successful.
My hope is for a 20-year limit on the property tax for a given family-occupied primary personal residence, or the abolition altogether of the property tax on primary personal residence, so that one’s home is actually privately owned property.
Rick Wagner
Pierceton, via e-mail

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