Under pressure, GOP reinstates tax credit on adoptions

Previous House version removed credit worth up to $13,750 for those who adopt children.

The House committee crafting a bill to overhaul the tax code Thursday yielded to pressure from adoption advocates, reinstating a politically popular provision that would provide a tax credit to parents who adopt.

The original version of the GOP bill had removed the tax credit, valued at up to $13,750 in 2017. Under current law, the credit can be applied over the course of five years for parents who adopt children through foster care, domestic private or internationally.

On Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady introduced an amendment reinstating the credit. Republicans on the committee approved the bill Thursday, and the full House is expected to vote on the tax plan next week.

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News that the adoption credit might be eliminated had galvanized both the right and the left — a wide ideological swath that included anti-abortion groups and LGBTQ couples, who research indicates are four times as likely to adopt as heterosexual counterparts.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, applauded the restoration of the credit, saying it “has served as an effective way to encourage adoption by easing the often-steep financial expense that can be incurred by adopting a child.”

Amanda and Arlin Caldwell of Gahanna used the credit twice, once for Alivia, now 5, and once for Ava. 3. Now, they’re hoping they can use it as they work with an attorney in hopes of finding a third child to adopt.

Few families, Amanda Caldwell said, can scrape up the tens of thousands of dollars up front to adopt. Knowing that a tax credit would help offset those expenses, she said, made the process much more stressful.

She was elated by the news that the House had restored the credit. “There is just relief,” she said, admitting she had been “pretty worried” about the elimination of the credit.

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Brady, R-Texas, an adoptive father of two who had originally backed eliminating the credit, credited a “thoughtful discussion” with the decision to restore the credit. Doing so, he said, would “ensure parents can continue to receive additional tax relief as they open their hearts and their homes to an adopted child.”

Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said the organization was “thrilled.” The credit, she said, shouldn’t have been in contention to be eliminated with.” She said her organization reached out privately to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee who, she said, “is very passionate about this.”

She and others had worried that eliminating the credit would provide a chilling effect on adoption. Thomas Taneff, a Columbus-area adoption attorney who is working with the Caldwells, said he worried that eliminating the credit “could create a disincentive for people who need help the most to want to move forward to give a the child a home.”

RELATED: Greater support available for military families seeking to adopt

For parents who adopt out of foster care, the tax credit often helps pay for the special needs that many foster kids have. For those adopting domestically or internationally, it can offset costs ranging from $20,000 to more than $40,000.

Ohio offers a $10,000 tax credit; the two credits combined can mean the difference between being able to afford an adoption and it being cost-prohibitive. In 2015, 1,736 taxpayers claimed the state credit on their tax returns, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation — a value of about $6.4 million. The federal credit is not tracked on a state-by-state basis, but the National Council for Adoption estimates that there were 3,994 adoptions in Ohio in 2014.

On the federal level, the credit is also considered relatively inexpensive, costing the federal government some $300 million in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Brady had initially defended the elimination of the credit, saying saying families would see savings elsewhere in the tax code — through lower rates and a higher child income tax credit.

“These are tough calls,” he said last week, before restoring the credit. “Do we want a tax code that has special provisions you may use once in your life or do we want a tax code that lowers rates and you get help every year of your life?”

But Chuck Johnson of the Council for Adoption said the tax credit actually saves money, costing .01 percent of the federal budget while the cost of caring for a child in foster care, by most estimates, is more than $100,000 a child per year.

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