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Tax Credits for Homeschoolers: An Old Idea         Wrapped In a New Package                                     Still Can’t Take Away the Stink  

 

                                                 January 20, 2020
                                                By Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson

 

     Some people are offended by that title, and they probably will be offended by the content of what’s below.  Sometimes it takes harsh language to learn the harsh reality.

 

      During all of its existence, NHELD has stood for freedom - individual freedom for individual parents, families, children.  The reason it has stood for freedom is because our entire American existence is built on that one almost sacred concept.  It is a concept that was entirely new to the world.  No other country was established on that concept.  We declared our independence from a prior concept - that our rights, small, large, or in between - all of them were given to us by the king, by our rulers.  Only in this country did we declare, for the first time in history, that we would be governed by kings and rulers.  No, we declared we, the people, were given rights by our Creator.  We had them when we were born, and no one, not even the king, could take them away.  In order to protect our individual freedom, however, we knew we had to set up some rules, so that no one could take our freedom away. We protected that concept, the concept of we have freedom and our rulers cannot take that away, by adopting the Constitution to limit the powers of our rulers.


     We at NHELD, like many others, still believe in that concept, and cherish it.  We do not take it lightly, and we will not give it away without a fight.


     That’s why we take the time to look at everything, every new law that is proposed through that same lens.  That’s because there are many people among us that don’t share our view.  There are those who, for whatever reason, believe that we, the people, should not be free, that we should be controlled by “rulers”, by the government.


     There is nothing new in this.  It is a constant struggle. Sometimes those who want to rule us are very open about it, sometimes they are not.  Sometimes, there are those who think they are “helping” us remain free, but what they propose, or are convinced to propose, actually makes us less free.


     Such is the case with the “new” proposal to give parents tax credits for homeschoolers.  That proposal is called, H.R. 1434, or the Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act.  It is a bill to amend the IRS Code to to give tax credits to those who contribute to scholarships for students, including those who homeschool. Why, you say, “that sounds like a great idea”.  Yes, it certainly does.  Like anything, however, the devil is in the details.


     You have to look at the language in the bill to find the details. You can find the language here:  <https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr1434/BILLS-116hr1434ih.pdf>.  Now, there is a section in the bill that says, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious, or home education provider, whether or not a home education provider is treated as a private school or home school under State law”, and “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage, or authorize an entity submitting a list of eligible scholarship-granting organizations on behalf of a State to mandate, direct, or control any aspect of a private or home education provider, regardless of whether or not a home education provider is treated as a private school under State law”, and “No participating State or entity acting on behalf of a State shall exclude, discriminate against, or otherwise disadvantage any education provider with respect to programs or services under this Act based in whole or in part on the provider’s religious character or affiliation, including religiously or mission-based policies or practices.”   Sounds good so far, right?


    Then, again, there are other provisions to examine.  For example, the bill provides that the “Secretary of the Treasury” shall prescribe such “regulations or other guidance” to ensure the bill’s provisions will be enforced. That means more federal regulations to come, perhaps?


      The bill also creates a web portal and administration for the contributions and tax credits.  It works this way:  The Secretary of Education and the Secretary of the Treasury will “establish, host, and maintain a Web portal” that lists all scholarship-granting organizations that are eligible under the IRS Code. The Web portal they maintain will enable a taxpayer to make a “qualifying” contribution to one or more of these eligible scholarship-granting organizations and to immediately obtain a “pre-approval” of a tax credit for the contribution, and a receipt to use when filing tax returns. It also, and here’s a key provision to watch, “enables a State to submit and update information about its programs. and its eligible scholarship-granting organizations, for informational purposes only, including information on (A) student eligibility; (B) allowable educational expenses; (C)  the types of allowable education providers; (D) the percent of funds an organization may use for program administration; and (E) the percentage of total contributions the organization awards in a calendar year.”


     Translation:  The head of two federal agencies will operate a website where “eligible” organizations will be listed so that taxpayers can contribute cash donations to them, and get “pre-approval” for a tax credit in return for that donation.  That same website enables “the State” to “submit and update” information, on how a student is “eligible” for scholarships, on “allowable educational expenses”, and on “the types of allowable education providers”.


     Hmm.  The State submits and updates information to whom? To the Federal government, which “maintains” it. The information submitted is what?  Information on student “eligibility”, “allowable educational expenses”, and the “types of allowable education providers”.  “Allowable education providers” - that’s parents, if we are talking about those who homeschool.  So, let’s think about this.  If a homeschool parent wants a tax credit, or a scholarship for the child, the parent goes to the website where information will be provided to the federal government about the “eligibility” of the child, and on what “type” of “allowable education provider” the parent is.  In return, you get a tax credit for your donation to a non-profit organization.  So, for your generous contribution to a non-profit organization, your benefit is a piece of paper saying you have an immediate “pre-approval” for a tax credit that year, and the chance for a “scholarship” for your child. Isn’t it true that any parent, right now, can donate to any non-profit and get a tax credit for that donation?  Isn’t that the benefit of any 501(c)(3) donation?  Isn’t it true that your child could have a chance for a scholarship from any non-profit right now to which a parent may make a donation, if it offers scholarships?  So, you get this “immediate pre-approval” of your tax credit in exchange for what again?  Oh, you provide information to the two Federal agencies for them to “maintain”. I don’t know, but that sounds like a pretty good deal - for the federal data collectors, that is.


    Reading on through the bill some more, however, it does say that you can make contributions without restoring to doing it through the web portal, but there are conditions to that, too.  You can do so, “provided that the taxpayer, or the eligible scholarship-granting organization on behalf of the taxpayer, applies for, and receives pre-approval for a tax credit from the Secretary of Education in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury.”  So, you need to get “pre-approval” from the federal agencies before you can donate your cash and get the tax credit.  You don’t need to get “pre-approval” from anyone right now to donate to a non-profit and get a tax credit, do you?  


    I see, this is a special tax credit for your educational expenses while you homeschool.  You didn’t have that before, but you would under this bill.  All you have to do to get that special tax credit is either get “pre-approval” from the federal agencies, if you qualify as the right “type” of “allowable” homeschool provider, and your educational expenses are “allowable”, and you provide information about your family to the federal agencies.  Whether or not you, or your expenses, are “allowable” depends on what rules the Secretaries of those two agencies adopt, sometime, you know, down the road.


     Of course, the State will like this bill, because the Federal agencies will “first reserve, for each State, an amount equal to the sum of the qualifying contributions made in the State in the previous year”, and allocate more in the following years proportionate to the number of children in the State.  Here’s the hook, though:  a State that does not provide the Secretary with the “information” the bill requires, is not eligible to receive the federal funds. What do you think your State will do?


    This is why NHELD advocates for freedom, and against accepting any government benefit, no matter how good it seems on the surface.  


     This is nothing new.  This proposal, in one packaging or another, has been around for years.  In fact, NHELD wrote about it, for example, when this idea, in different packaging, was being proposed in 2011.  You can find that article in the NHELD archives, here: <http://www.nheld.com/Editorialtaxbreaks.htm>.  Note, also, that some of the same people who proposed the idea back then, are the same people who are behind proposing the idea now.  (Can we say HSLDA, Ted Cruz, etc.?) Nothing has changed, except the packaging.  It’s always the same:  people who want, or don’t mind, government control - regulation, information sharing, approval, call it what you will - dangle benefits, in exchange for strings attached.  Once attached, the strings are extremely difficult to cut.  Yes, some people will want, or need, the benefit they see.  Just don’t be fooled.  The packaging may cover the stink of loss of freedom, but the stink still remains.  NHELD doesn’t want it.  We want freedom.  Do you?

 

                                  Permission is granted to share this article in its entirety.


Attorney Stevenson is the founder of National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC. (NHELD)

 

Read full article here: <https://www.dgstevensonlaw.com/national-home-education-legal-defense-nheld/articles-editorials/tax-credits-for-homeschoolers-still-can-t-take-away-the-stink/>

 

For Archived Articles: nheld.com

 

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