Canada group seeks tax benefits for retirees

Originally published in the Korea Herald on August 14th, 2011. To go to the Korea Herald website please click here

With the global economy dwindling again in the aftermath of the downgrade of the U.S.’ “AAA” credit rating by S&P, retirees or those who plan to retire in the near future are concerned about a reduction in retirement savings.

When the market went down in 2008 and 2009, 61 percent of working baby boomers in the U.S. were concerned about outliving their retirement assets, according to a report by the AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

In the case of Canada, CARP, a Canadian equivalent to AARP, is seeking tax credits and policy changes to help aging people keep more of their money, said Susan Eng, vice president of advocacy department of the CARP.

“Certainly, the market downturn has eroded retirement savings and CARP is seeking tax policy changes that will let people keep more of their money,” Eng told The Korea Herald in an email interview.

“Income supports are needed to address the increasing levels of poverty among unattached seniors, especially older women. And more is needed to help people meet their health care and continuing care challenges.”

According to Eng, Canadians are already spending $183 billion a year for health care but CARP questions whether the health care system is meeting the needs of older Canadians, she said.

“CARP advocates for reducing the costs of prescription drugs ? which are largely publicly funded for Canadian seniors ? so that we can afford to cover other drugs and health care services,” Eng said.

“This requires the various levels of government to cooperate in bulk purchasing, easing the entry of generic drugs and tightening the rules for funding new drugs to use our tax dollars efficiently.”

Although the recent economic turmoil has made it more difficult for baby boomers to plan for their retirement, CARP was successful in getting an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement which will help 680,000 of the poorest seniors, Eng said.

The association also pushed an increased caregiver tax credit to help families look after their loved ones at home rather than in an institution, Eng said, which will benefit 160,000 families.

Eng wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in May to request an elimination of the mandatory retirement age which CARP considers to be age discrimination.

She said the association “secured promises from the federal government” to eliminate the mandatory retirement age.

Another issue that the CARP is actively dealing with is to increase sentencing for elder abuse, Eng said.

According to the CARP, there are 4.6 million Canadians over 65 and potentially 460,000 elderly people in Canada face abuse.

In 10 years, the number of population aged 65 and older will grow to 7.9 million. The association projects that some 790,000 will confront abuse, if no action is taken.

“A grandmother locked in the family’s garage during the coldest months of a Toronto winter cannot be helped by empty rhetoric,” she said.

“Elder abuse cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute and often result in what many see as insufficient deterrence.”

© Korea Herald