Unfairness to retirees


Social security benefits rose 1.5 percent this year, one of the smallest increases since 1975 when the cost-of-living adjustments were adopted. The average Social Security benefit went up by $7 per month to an annual figure of $14,148. Compare this to the teacher coordinator in Jericho High School who earned $149,855 in one year; also compare it to the annual pension of $173,495 that a former Roslyn school chief received while in prison for stealing $2.2 million from his school district.

The entire annual social security benefit received by some Long Island homeowners will be completely consumed by property taxes and fees:

Nassau County fees, alone, have been raised by more than $100 million in the past four years.

There will be difficult times ahead for retirees if our Washington lawmakers accept President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce social security cost-of-living adjustments by basing them on a reshuffled consumer price index. This could mean a loss of thousands of dollars in benefits over a retiree’s lifetime.

Retirees are also being treated unfairly by current federal tax law. Social security benefits can be taxed up to 85 percent and every dollar withdrawn from a retirement account can result in an additional portion of the Social Security benefit becoming taxable. Even tax-exempt municipal bond interest may not be tax free for retirees since it is included in the computation for determining how much of their Social Security benefit is taxable.

During his first election campaign, President Obama expressed his intention to eliminate the tax on Social Security benefits. So far, he has not taken any action on this campaign promise. Having paid Social Security tax their entire working career, there is no reason to tax seniors now that they are retired.

If the president is concerned about the loss of tax revenue, he should consider raising the payroll taxable limit for social security, which is currently $113,700. This would not affect lower income persons only the wealthy whose earnings are beyond the Social Security taxable limit.

It is time that our elected officials become aware of the financial burden placed on our senior citizens; our lawmakers should take steps to modify the unfair provisions in the current tax law as well as reduce the onerous property taxes that make it difficult for retirees to stay on Long Island.