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Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers: Thanks, but No Thanks

The news and internet are flooded with debate over Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers. Today, Attorney Christine Field of Homeschool Legal Advantage sorts out the issue for us.

Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers:

Thanks, but No Thanks

Federal tax credits for homeschoolers?Homeschoolers are abuzz with discussion over the suggestion that Republicans may be introducing legislation to give a federal tax credit to homeschoolers.  While nothing has been proposed to date (do a search at http://thomas.loc.gov/), it is worthwhile to examine the pros and cons.

In this economy, who wouldn’t favor a tax break from a government that seeks to support and control virtually every aspect of modern life?  Besides, the argument goes, we all pay taxes and we should be in line to be the beneficiaries of the unfunded largess of the lawmakers.  Everyone else is doing it ….

From a larger perspective, it is a common ploy of the Federal government to dangle a carrot in front of states for funding.  The states that comply, such as the recent Race to the Top campaign, receive huge sums of money from the government.  But, the funds, as always, are tied to an expectation.  In the Race to the Top, participating states had to agree to adopt Common Core Standards, an effort to have a common curriculum across the states.

But, you say, this isn’t really funding – it’s a return on taxes we have already paid.

True, just like every other deduction you take on your Income Taxes, such expenditures would have to be documented.  In our view, this leaves the door open for inspection and approval.  It is a foothold that we cannot allow the Federal government to establish.

For comparison, three states allow parents to take a deduction on their State income taxes for homeschool expenses.  In my state (Illinois) I have taken the deduction and have been subject to questioning and requests for extra documentation each year I have sought it.

What the state allows, it can also regulate.  Let’s examine another state benefit available to some homeschoolers.  In a highly touted program, parents in Minnesota can seek a small textbook reimbursement for their homeschool expenses.  The amount is paltry compared to the amounts most parents actually expend.  Look at how the regulation is worded:

 “Textbook” means any book or book substitute which a pupil uses as a text or text substitute in a particular class or program in the school regularly attended and a copy of which is expected to be available for the individual use of each pupil in this class or program. The term shall be limited to books, workbooks, or manuals, whether bound or in loose-leaf form, intended for use as a principal source of study material for a given class or a group of students. The term includes only such secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils.

By statute and by definition, they only offer textbook assistance for secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils.  Some homeschoolers could qualify, but many would not.

We oppose Federal tax credits for homeschoolers based on our experience with all such programs.  In sum:

1.  Education has been and should remain a matter for the states, not the Federal government.

2.  Funding (whether outright or in the form of tax credits) comes with expectations.  Is it too far to imagine the accountability that might be required for such a tax credit?  Common standards and standardized  testing are two burdens which come directly to mind.

3.  A tax credit would require documentation.

4.  Documentation leads to scrutiny and the authority to deny or dismiss unless certain conditions are met, such as requiring only secular materials.

While we are all looking for a break in this economy, this break is too costly to the freedoms and individuality of homeschoolers.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Christine Field

Attorney at Law

www.HomeschoolLegalAdvantage.com

Homeschool Legal Advantage is a branch of the Christian Law Association, serving home educating families in a ministry model of legal service.  You can read more about HLA in their profile here on WhateverState and visit their website for more information on how you can join today.

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers: Thanks, but No Thanks | Whatever State I Am -- Topsy.com

  2. offering funding was the very way in which the federal government has taken control over the local public school districts. (which the fed has no constitutional right to control). What makes you think they won’t do the same with homeschooling. You know the department of education is chomping at the bit to get oversight over homeschoolers.

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    • You are right, Vaughn. Unfortunately, some homeschool support organizations have come out in favor of this idea. I am so grateful to Attorney Christine Field for her willingness to explain this important issue – and the inherent dangers – to us.

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      • Denise Phillips says

        Lea Ann,
        Do you know where HSLDA stands on this issue….I feel like I’m playing catch-up. I home school in Pennsylvania (Ugg!) and really we don’t need any more government “intervention”!

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  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this perspective! My family lives in the great state of Texas, and we have been homeschooling for 8 years. Our federal government operates on the principle that what the government giveth, the government can taketh away. When they offer a “tax break,” they don’t see it as returning to us money that is already rightfully ours — they see it as funding and subsidizing us. They see it as us spending “their” money, which opens the door to *telling us* how to spend “their” money, or else. This is exactly how they cowed churches into watching what they say about politics or risk losing their tax exempt status! I was thrilled last year when Gov. Rick Perry told the feds that they could keep “their” money, and I certainly plan to follow suit!

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    • Thankful to be a Texan, too! It is definately different home educating here than in other states. That said, even we Texans – or, perhaps most importantly we Texans – must stay informed and vocal on these important issues. Our perspective from a freedom-loving, federalism-fighting state will help those home educators in other, more restrictive environments to see they don’t have to give up their rights.

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  6. Denise: You can read the official HSLDA response here: http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/Issues/E/EducationTaxCredit_State.asp

    It was after reading this link, advertised by HSLDA in their email newsletter, that I contacted Attorney Christine Field of Homeschool Legal Advantage:

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/04/do-home-schoolers-deserve-a-tax-break/no-extra-rules-required-for-home-schooling

    I am glad not all home educators share HSLDA’s position, seeing the inherent danger that Attorney Field so clearly explains above. Since this post, I have read several home ed bloggers calling for homeschoolers to unite AGAINST this dangerous step toward government intervention in our private lives.

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