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Should people without kids pay higher taxes?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The www.irs.gov website is the place to go to find the 2012 1040 U.S. Tax form. Over 80% of Americans file their taxes electronically, For information about any additional changes to the 2012 tax law go to www.irs.gov/form1040.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The chat-o-sphere has been abuzz lately about a proposal by Slate columnist Reihan Salam: The childless should pay higher taxes so that lower- and middle-income parents can pay less.

“The willingness of parents to bear and nurture children saves us from becoming an economically moribund nation of hateful curmudgeons. The least we can do is offer them a bigger tax break,” writes Salam, who has no children himself.

And by “we” he specifically means any nonparent who makes more than the U.S. median income of roughly $51,000. They should bear a heavier tax burden, he argues.

The idea lit off some biting retorts along the lines of “Sure, I’ll pay more, but then I want more say in how your raise your kids and how many more you’re allowed to have.”

But it also raises an interesting question: Just how many tax breaks do parents get?

The answer: About $171 billion a year’s worth, according to a 2013 estimate from the Tax Policy Center.

And that’s a measure of just the five biggest child-related breaks: The earned income tax credit, child tax credit, child and dependent care tax credit, the dependent exemption and the head of household filing status for single parents.

The Tax Policy Center further estimates that the average tax benefit for parents exceeds $3,400. A married couple with two kids could get benefits of nearly $7,700, while a single parent with two children might receive more than $8,100.

As a result of the code’s many child-related tax provisions, about half of households with kids — many of them lower income — won’t owe any federal income taxes in 2013. Some in that group will even get a check from the government.

That’s not surprising since the tax code is intended to impose the lightest burden on those who are most strapped.

There’s no question raising kids has become an expensive venture and parenting is the hardest job in the world.

So there may be good arguments for expanding today’s federal tax breaks for parents. And there should be a debate over how to pay for that.

But Salam’s proposal to more heavily tax a select group of people simply because they don’t have kids disregards some important realities.

For starters, some people physically can’t have children or have a tough time adopting. Others have made a conscious choice not to have children because they can’t afford them or because they think they can contribute to society in other ways.

And the truth is everyone in society — not just the childless — benefits from parents’ work raising the next generation.

Salam’s proposal also seems to assume that every nonparent making more than $51,000 can afford a bigger tax burden.

But maybe they’re helping to support an elderly parent or have their own big medical expenses.

Or maybe they’re just trying to pay down their student loan debt and save for children of their own some day.

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  • Glen Allen

    I don’t think those without children should pay more, their taxes are already paying for things they do not use, like schools, school busses, public playgrounds, etc. I think the benefit of what the children offer us as a society, makes the investment in their education etc, well worth the money, but I don’t think higher taxes for single parents is justified. Parents already get deductions single people do not get.

  • Eugene Golden

    yeah right…you have the kids..you should have to pay the taxes to educate the little darlings. The childless are paying for your kids now. Actually the opposite should happen. It is like a user tax. If you use the school system to educate your kids.. the people with the kids should be paying MORE. Not less. Why should the people without children have to pay a bigger share than the parents at raising their children. This guy that came up with this must be an idiot or has too many children he cannot raise responsibly .

  • informed cynic

    SERIOUSLY? bc i DONT decide to have kids i need to be penalized even more? I already dont have a tax write off and so on and so forth-how about take that money out of govt officials fat paychecks?

  • Glen

    In case you just tuned in, we have already been paying for this for decades. The columnist would like for us to further compensate low income individuals for doing that which they would gladly do for free. Just add it to Santa’s list right behind subsidized housing, free or heavily subsidized health care, food stamps, and free cell phones.

  • shanice

    hell no.. and i have a child but people without kids pay higher taxes for what?? dont worry i’ll sit back and wait?? because all that money is going to benefit some other person whos already a millionaire…

Comments are closed.