Monday, June 30, 2008

Tax Credits: Blessing or Burden?

On June 3, U.S. Senator David Vitter (LA) introduced The Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound (HOMES) Act. The bill provides tax relief to families who home school their children by allowing them to take advantage of tax deducations for education-related expenses.
"All families should be provided with a full spectrum of choices when it comes to the education of their children,” Vitter said. "We need to take the necessary steps to remove the undue financial burdens that are currently placed on home school families. As individuals empower themselves to take responsibility for the proper education of their children, we should in turn provide them with the appropriate tools to do so. To that end, this legislation is a positive step in that process."
The HOMES Act would allow up to $2000 annually in tax credit for K-12 homeschool activities. Homeschool advocates are divided in their support.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) supports the bill,
"For years homeschooling families have paid a disproportionately high cost for education related expenses, as parents who homeschool their children fund not only their own educational materials but also continue to finance public education via their tax dollars. Hence, homeschool parents incur an inequitable financial burden in regard to their children’s education. The HOMES Act would help families subsidize homeschooling expenses and ensure that homeschool students enjoy similar rights and treatment to students enrolled in public education. If passed, this legislation would be the first time that the federal tax code provided homeschooling families with a tax deduction for homeschool expenses.
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) is against the bill on Constitutional grounds. Attorney Deborah Stevenson writes,

"The power of regulating educational issues is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States. Therefore, the power of regulating educational issues is reserved to the States respectively, or to the people...

"While on the face of it, many people might want to take advantage of a tax break offered under this new bill. Parents should ask themselves before succumbing to the enticement, however, what will this cost in terms of my freedom to home school in the long run? What will it cost in terms of my children’s freedom to home school their children in years to come? Is a tax break, or any federal benefit, worth the loss, or potential loss, of liberty?"

Your voice and opinion is just as important as the attorneys who often attempt to speak on our behalf.

Are you in favor of a federal tax credit for educational expenses? Is the financial benefit worth the potential loss of freedom in how the federal government defines who qualifies? Do the principles of limited government still have meaning in our lives? Or should we just accept that the federal government is going to use federal tax policy to influence behavior and be grateful that they are using it for our benefit?

Dana at Principled Discovery does a great deal of analysis of the bill and the various arguments and states that in general she disagrees with "the use of the tax code to influence behavior."

What do you think?

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