Adoption Tax Breaks Threatened

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adoption Tax Breaks Threatened


You’ve probably heard that the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire this coming December 31. The expiration of these tax cuts, along with across-the-board spending cuts mandated by the August 2011 deal raising the debt ceiling, have been dubbed the “fiscal cliff.”

Economically speaking, it’s not difficult to find explanations why the “fiscal cliff” as a whole would be bad for the country. But Washington’s failure to set priorities and make tough, but needed, choices — otherwise known as “their job” — would also hurt ordinary, vulnerable people.

Case in point: a provision in the Internal Revenue Code that allows families to claim a tax credit to help offset the cost of adopting a child. The credit, which first became law in 1997, provides a one-time federal tax credit of up to $13,000 for “qualified adoption expenses.”

These expenses include things such as “adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses, and other expenses directly related to the adoption of a qualified child.”

In 2003, the law was amended so that families who adopted children with special needs could receive the full credit regardless of their “qualified adoption expenses.”

Now, the law isn’t perfect. For example, the credit doesn’t make adoption much more affordable for low- to middle-income families who don’t owe much in taxes. But the credit has contributed to the new adoption push, which Christianity Today called “a new Reformation.” As I told a crowd at a Crisis Pregnancy Center banquet last week, the adoption boom in the church shows that Christians are ready to care for children at risk, and has become a significant force in promoting the culture of life.

And, remember, every adopted child leaves the foster system, which saves the state significant expenses. That simple fact led the state of Colorado to partner with Focus on the Family in 2010 for a state-wide adoption initiative that was incredibly successful.

Despite these obvious benefits, the existence of this tax provision has been precarious because it’s never been made permanent in the tax code. Instead, the benefit relies on periodic congressional re-authorization.

That’s where the “fiscal cliff” enters the story. Adoption advocates are worried that the credit will become an unintended victim of Washington’s wrangling over the looming “fiscal cliff.” Even though both sides, including President Obama, support extending the credit and even want to make it permanent, its fate is tied to the larger issue of what to do about taxes more generally.

Bill Blacquiere, head of Bethany Christian Services, told the Baptist Press that he is “very concerned” about the credit’s fate. He said that they “are hearing from people on the inside, this may not pass this year.”

If that happens, Blacquiere believes that “there would be a lot of families who could not afford adoption.” Even with the existing credit, “there are families who take out loans ... [even] second mortgages.” Take away the tax credit and many wouldn’t qualify for these loans.

Blacquiere’s concerns aren’t theoretical. From my own experience, most of my American friends regard adoption as a viable option, while none of my friends in places like Australia and New Zealand do. It’s not because they don’t care for others but because it’s not normal there like it is here. Incentives, like the tax credit, help make it normal.

Issues like this remind us why Christians must stay engaged in politics. I talk more about that in today’s "Two-Minute Warning," which you can watch by going to BreakPoint.org and clicking on this commentary.

The kids who could be hurt by the expiration of this credit need us to speak up for them. If we don’t, who will?

As the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, John Stonestreet provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: September 20, 2012

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