Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder
Even with a wave of new state-level abortion restrictions passing or taking effect this summer, Georgia’s law stood out because of its so-called personhood provisions that accompanied the better known six-week ban on the procedure.
One particular change that drew national attention was a new tax break for expecting parents.
The state Department of Revenue released initial guidance last month stating that a taxpayer who is pregnant between July 20 and Dec. 31 may claim their future child as a dependent. The department promised to provide additional information on the new policy later this year.
“In the state of Georgia, House Bill 481 recognizes the fundamental truth, life begins at conception,” said Cole Muzio, president of the conservative Christian lobbying organization Frontline Policy Action and a backer of the legislation that created the new law. “And so we recognize that throughout our code. That means that a woman, as soon as she’s pregnant, can begin claiming that child on her taxes as a dependent.”
Speaking at the conservative Christian Family Research Council’s 2022 Pray Vote Stand for Life Summit in Atlanta last week, Muzio said such provisions are an important public relations component for the movement.
“That’s an important thing, as you’re talking about messaging, we truly value life as a state, as a people,” he said, panning Democrats who opposed the bill. “The idea that we would give pregnant women some tax relief was so repulsive to them, that we recognized the personhood of the unborn, that they wanted to rip just that provision out of the bill. We need to make sure people know that and are aware of that when we’re talking about these things, we are authentically, pro-life, pro-woman, and that carries forward in everything we do.”
Democrats say the sweeping changes could have unforeseen consequences.
“When you are going to start to equate a fetus with a person that is born in the personhood clause, as exemplified by this claiming of a fetus on tax returns, it just opens up a huge host of very thorny questions, constitutional questions, freedom of movement questions that we just haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of, much less answer,” said Atlanta Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent. “This is really a byproduct of the rushed process to pass that legislation.”
One such unanswered question is how much income tax revenue the state will forego because of the new deduction.
An analysis of the potential cost was not done when the bill passed in 2019, but at the time, the bill’s author put the price tag at about $10 million to $20 million annually.
In Georgia, about 122,500 babies were born in 2020, according to the March of Dimes, but now embryos and fetuses that don’t survive the pregnancy can also be claimed as dependents. The state might ask tax filers to provide “relevant medical records or other supporting documentation ” to prove they are eligible for the tax deduction, but the Department of Revenue has not yet clarified which specific records might be requested.
“I would say that’s true of any tax deduction or tax credit is if you want to claim it, you have got to be prepared to show that you deserve it,” said Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “It’s certainly more intimate than whether you bought a house or something like that, but from the standpoint of having to provide documentation, that’s just kind of an expectation with any deduction or credit.
“I can see why people might think about this differently, but I would say it’s more similar to other deductions and credits than not,” he added.
This story has been edited for length. Read the full story at the Georgia Recorder.
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