Proposed Pregnancy Tax Break Creates Controversy

Proposed Pregnancy Tax Break Creates Controversy

Proposed Pregnancy Tax Break Creates Controversy


Michigan lawmakers have proposed a controversial new law that would give tax breaks to some pregnant women.  If passed, the law would allow for women who were at 12 weeks' gestation or further at the end of the tax year to claim their fetus as a dependent under the tax code.

Under the current United States tax structure, a new baby counts for an additional $3,700 deduction—but only when it's born before the tax year is over on December 31.  Parents with “New Year's babies” born just a day later currently have almost all of the same expenses due to their child, but are not able to claim a tax deduction until the entire year has passed.

Michigan lawmakers proposing the new rule say that it would help out families who are strapped for cash and are having trouble making ends meet, or who are having additional expenses due to the costs of pregnancy, delivery, and birth.

The estimated total cost of the tax law would be around $5 to $10 million dollars according to the state's House Fiscal agency report.

While the law may sound like it's designed to help women, some Democratic and women's rights groups claim it's actually an attempt to do exactly the opposite.  The Michigan legislature has repeatedly imposed abortion restrictions and attempted to gain more recognition in the legal code for fetal personhood.  In 2006, a law to allow parents of stillborn infants to declare those infants in their tax deductions was passed, and brought some of the same criticisms.  That law has since been repealed, although several other states still maintain some version of a stillbirth tax deduction law.

According to Democratic critics of the law, the proposal would allow Republican lawmakers to “back door” a way to talk about fetuses as people with the same rights as other people.  From there, they see it as a relatively short step to using the same justifications to curtail access to abortion services.

If the law is passed, Michigan will be the only state in the United States that allows parents to declare their child on their taxes before that child is even born.  Several Republican lawmakers advocated the policy, saying that it was not intended to set up the state for additional abortion restrictions and that the bill recognizes the expenses and difficulty of having a new child.

On average, the tax savings to Michigan taxpayers would amount to approximately $160 per family in the year of a woman's pregnancy.  Democratic lawmakers say that this savings isn't enough to offset the roughly $600 on average that recent Republican-backed elimination of tax credits has cost working families in Michigan.

In order to qualify for the tax credit if the law is passed, families will need to be able to provide documentation of the gestational age of their unborn child on January 1.  If the fetus is less than 12 weeks old at the new year, no tax deduction will be granted for the pregnancy.






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