Why the Federal Child Tax Credit should be done away with

Seldom is the question brought up: Why are those without children expected to contribute a vastly higher percentage of their tax dollars towards K-12 education and child welfare programs than parents themselves?

The federal child tax credit currently gives parents $1000 per child, per year. A single parent making up $75,000 annually, or a married couple making up to $110,000 can collect on this “credit”. Often times when the “earned income credit” is also taken, parents will actually receive money from the federal government above and beyond the taxes they paid. This is why I put the child tax “credit” in quotes. When the child tax credit becomes an entitlement, it should no longer be considered a tax credit but rather social welfare.

Public education in America is funded by all citizens, not just parents, and rightfully so. A civilized society can’t expect to prosper without holding all responsible for funding quality public education. The problem arises when you look at the brazen inequity of our current system.

While parents take advantage of a generous federal child tax “credit”, tax exemptions for dependents, and varying tax perks offered on both a state and federal level (daycare subsidies, tax credits for private education, age based entitlements like state funded health insurance for uninsured children, etc.), those in the working and middle class that don’t have children are paying through the nose to fill in the gaps. Why is this alright?

As a general rule, 50% of everyone’s property taxes will go to support K-12 education (keep in mind, most everyone pays property taxes either directly via home ownership or indirectly through their monthly rent). A portion of both our state and federal income taxes are also spent on K-12 education. Considering about 4% of the general federal fund is spent on education, some simple math should bring to light a huge injustice.

A single parent with 2 children and a taxable income of $70,000 will receive a $2000 child tax credit. Their federal tax liability will be about $15,000. The child tax credit they claim will discount this liability by 13%. Where is their contribution to the 4% federal education expenditure?

Breaking it down to a state level is difficult due to varying tax rates and state expenditures, so I’ll use Oregon (my home state) as an example. In Oregon anyone with a taxable income above $6,501 will pay 9% of it to the state. So the single parent with a taxable income of $70,000 will pay $6,300 for state income tax. Considering Oregon K-12 expenditures amount to (approximately) 20% of the general fund, this single parent should be paying $1,260 towards the education of their own children. But, their federal child tax credit offsets their 4% contribution towards federal education expenditures ($600) as well as their $1,260 state education fund contribution. They’re still $140 in the black. Essentially the Federal government refunded the theoretical parent used in this example the $1,260 they paid towards K-12 education in Oregon. Meanwhile, those unfortunate souls who chose not to breed are the ones paying for this refund.

These are only basic illustrations that don’t even take into account the tax savings seen with state and federal exemptions given for each dependent child.

To date I’ve heard all the staple arguments from indignant parents who think they are entitled to these bizarre perks. The most common of which are:

-“How can you say you shouldn’t have to contribute public education simply because you have no children!”
Of course I’ve never said such a thing. We should all contribute EQUALLY towards public education. It seems easier to ask an unrelated and asinine question than to answer the one at hand.

-“But raising children is expensive!”
Living is expensive, all around. You chose to have a family either by accepting children through happenstance or mutual accord. Why should I take more responsibility for your actions than you do.

-“The children are your future. They will be the heart surgeons and caretakers of the preceding generation.”
Sure they will, but they won’t do it for free. Unless my disproportionate contributions towards their education and development is considered a pre-payment for later services, I think we should ALL contribute equally.

-“You’re a heartless, bitter man. What’s wrong with you?”
Well, the last bastion for blind indignation is always baseless insult. I shrug.

In closing, I’ve not written this to demonize parents for taking advantage of the Federal Child Tax Credit. Any parent would have to be a fool not to. Instead, I’m demonizing the undeservedly arrogant and self entitled parents who really believe someone else should pay for their life choices. I’m demonizing our morally blind, vote hungry legislators for fostering and encouraging unjust tax laws. Mostly I’m sympathizing with those childless, hardworking folk who bust ass all week long just to keep the current system afloat.

Parents, next time you run into a hard working childless tax payer, please show your gratitude with a proper “thank you”. It’ll make us all feel a lot better.