An alarming number of empty nesters, coming to an end of their earning years and facing an unreasonable-never-ending-property-tax burden, are being forced to sell their homes. Property taxes are like mortgage payments, except instead of ending in thirty years, they go on and on and on until death. And how’s this for the ultimate foreclosure—the government can sell our homes if we fail to pay our property taxes on time.
I think conventional wisdom of this generation and past generations was that owning your own home was a failsafe investment. I’m a baby boomer, and I thought if I bought a house and dutifully paid off the mortgage, someday I could own my home. Recently though, a slow realization manifested itself. Here it is: The government owns my home.
As taxes have crept up over the years, I now pay $51,000 a year in property/school taxes. Over the next thirty years (I could reasonably live that long), that would add up to $1,530,000. Apparently, I don’t own my home. Forget that I’ve already been paying school taxes for twenty-five years, I still owe the government $1,530,000. By the time I die, I will actually have paid the government more in property taxes than the value of my home. That’s assuming I could even stay in my home with such a tax burden.
It seems to be a given that we should pay property taxes to support entitlement programs like public education. The premise isn’t horrible—we all pitch in to educate the children whose parents can’t afford to pay for school—part of the American dream—an education for all children. We certainly all benefit from educating our children, because education leads to opportunities. Adults with opportunities are less likely to commit crime, suffer health problems, and are more likely to be productive citizens. (Whether the education system should shift from the government to the private sector is an idea worth our consideration, and putting this into the hands of the private sector could provide a solution to our current problem of unreasonable taxation. At least the private sector would run it without the need to tax us all to/until death to pay for it. If the private sector could provide a higher-quality education, then the idea gets even more interesting.)
But in our current situation, the government administers and controls the education system, and irrespective of the quality of education being provided the government has the absolute power to force us to pay taxes for this our entire lives. Is this reasonable? Is it reasonable that even people who no longer have children in public school and people who never-have-had and never-will-have children in public school are forced to pay this tax? I would never advocate we stop educating our children. I’m just saying it’s time for a long-overdue return to reasonable taxation. Shouldn’t there be a tax okay-that’s-enough point?
The never-ending-property-tax burden in America has become too great. The American Dream of growing old in the home you’ve worked hard to own is just that—only a dream, a fantasy. Are we okay with this?