Tax Overhaul Bears Gifts for Conservatives, Including Rights for Unborn (NYT)

Tax Overhaul Bears Gifts for Conservatives, Including Rights for Unborn

http://nyti.ms/2hc6tuy

The language is contained in an innocuous provision related to education savings vehicles — so-called 529 plans, which are state-sponsored, tax-free investment funds that allow families to put aside money for a child’s college education. The provision explicitly allows expectant parents to designate a “child in utero” as a beneficiary of a 529 plan.

Parents have long been able to set up 529 accounts for an unborn child, but the provision accomplishes what anti-abortion activists have long sought: It enshrines into federal law the recognition of the unborn.

“An unborn child means a child in utero,” the provision states. “A child in utero means a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion rights, said the addition of the words “unborn child” was a major victory for their movement.

Photo
The 400-plus-page tax plan released Thursday includes changes that would codify the rights of unborn children.

Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

“It is fantastic because the unborn child is appropriately represented in the tax code,” she said. “All of these things represent a serious commitment to treating the unborn child, as she or he should be, equal and protected in the eyes of the law.”

The bill also contains a sought-after change by the religious right: repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from engaging in political activity.

Eliminating it was an early campaign promise of Mr. Trump’s, and it has been a cause long championed by religious conservatives.

“Repealing the bigoted Johnson Amendment is long overdue,” Ralph Reed, the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in a letter on Thursday to members of Congress.

“This clearly unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech has been used by the Internal Revenue Service to harass, intimidate and persecute the faith community for over six decades,” he wrote. “It is long past time to repeal it and we strongly support this legislation’s provision restoring the full First Amendment rights of people of faith.”

Still, doing away with the Johnson Amendment is not a cause that unites all conservatives, nor is it one that liberals are likely to let go quietly because of the considerable clout it would give pastors in the electoral process.

“The entire reason Donald Trump promised religious leaders he would help get rid of the Johnson Amendment was to empower the Christian right,” said Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow for People for the American Way, a left-leaning political advocacy group.

Other aspects of the bill would make it harder for immigrant parents to claim the refundable child tax credit, even if their children were born in the United States. Under the legislation, filers would need to provide a Social Security number, rather than just a taxpayer identification number, in order to claim the benefit, which can be claimed even by those who owe no taxes. Social Security numbers are provided only to United States citizens or those authorized to work in the country.

The left-leaning Center on Budget Policy and Priorities said the provision would roll back eligibility for about three million children in working families, including about 80 percent born in the United States.

Some portions of the bill did not sit well with social conservatives, including the proposed repeal of the adoption tax credit and the inability to claim the child tax credit for a fetus.

“We are adamantly opposed to the elimination of the adoption tax credit,” Ms. Dannenfelser said. “And in order to help poor, expectant mothers and families, we are pressing for the expansion of the child tax credit to include the unborn child.”

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via NYT http://nyti.ms/2gVZ2VB

November 4, 2017 at 10:57AM