04/02/2013 03:26 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia to exempt another 8,000 seniors from paying provincial income tax

HALIFAX - Low income seniors are in line for further tax breaks that would cost the province about $6 million in the upcoming budget, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

Dexter told the legislature that under measures to be tabled in Thursday's budget another 8,000 low-income seniors would be exempt from paying provincial income tax as of Jan. 1, 2014.

He said the move would increase the number of seniors exempt from paying provincial income tax from 17,000 to 25,000. Dexter said another 4,000 seniors would also have a portion of their income tax returned to them.

Dexter said the maximum property tax rebate available to seniors would also increase from $600 to $800 — a figure that would cover about 50 per cent of property tax bills.

He said the $6-million cost of the changes included both measures.

"We don't consider it a hit, we consider it a benefit to the seniors of the province," Dexter said of the cost.

Dexter denied it was a move to buy seniors' votes as part of an upcoming election, saying it would be legislated before the house rises.

"No, we are going to put that in the legislation in the Financial Measures Act," he said.

"We have always recognized that there are difficult financial times out there and those who are least able to afford it need to be cushioned against rising prices."

Under the change the Finance Department said seniors with taxable income under $24,000 would qualify.

The department said seniors who currently receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement, pay provincial income tax and wait for a rebate will no longer have to pay up front because the change would reduce their tax liability to $0.

Both opposition parties applauded the move but wondered whether any benefits would be washed out by other government measures such as user fee hikes approaching six per cent, while the cost of living for things such as electricity continue to rise.

"This is really let me take the money from you today and if you re-elect me I'll give some of it back to you two years from now," said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he doubted seniors would come out ahead.

"It does not address the root cause which is that a lot more money has been taken out of the pockets of Nova Scotians than today's announcement will deal with."

Meanwhile, Dexter hinted that additional tax breaks would likely be part of the upcoming budget.

"You will see that we are particularly attentive to those issues — the issues of poverty, the issues associated with trying to make ends meet," Dexter said.