Torah For Today: Taxing over-40s to help pay for the elderly
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Torah For Today: Taxing over-40s to help pay for the elderly

Rabbi Ariel Abel looks at the Torah view on helping meet the rising costs of social care

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

A cross-party group of MPs has suggested the over-40s and wealthy pensioners are taxed to help meet the cost of social care for the elderly. What does the Torah say about this?

Althougn gh the Jewish community rightly prides itself on contributing to care for the elderly, it is first and foremost an individual’s duty to plan ahead and be self-sufficient in their older years.

Honouring parents or the elderly does not imply financial support. However, it does fall within the wider ambit of tzedakah.

Taxing the individual is already a religious practice, via the 10% given from one’s disposable income. Therefore, although such a tax would have the force of law, it would count towards satisfying this religious obligation to give tzedakah.

Charging a percentage of income seems fair, although relating this to age is wrong. Many 40-year-olds struggle to pay for growing families, whereas many 20 and 30-somethings with upwardly mobile, high-octane, but high earning lives should be taxed as they are not yet committed to the expenses of rearing children.

Furthermore, a Jewish approach would be conducive to giving time, as well as money. Therefore, families who look after their own elderly relatives, thus fulfilling the government’s concern to protect them from suffering isolation, should be exempt from the tax or receive an appropriately high rebate.

The personal touch in caring for neighbours and family-based care is the intergenerational, communal approach favoured by Judaism.

The recent opening of a children’s nursery at the Nightingale Home in South London is a shining example of this preferred option: care-in-person, rather than the giving of money alone.

Bringing different age-groups together vastly increases the quality of life of older people and will also reduce the vast cost of the social bill. It is a model the rest of society should emulate.

 

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