WASHINGTON — When Amanda and Arlin Caldwell of Gahanna decided to adopt again, there were all the typical worries: Would they be matched with a child? When would that be? How would they ensure a smooth transition?
They were prepared for those — they’ve adopted twice before — but last week, another stressor was added to the mix: the possibility that Congress would remove the federal adoption tax credit from the federal code as part of a comprehensive tax overhaul.
However, that factor was eliminated Thursday when a House committee reinstated the credit.
Under current law, the $13,750 credit can be applied over five years for parents who adopt children through foster care, a private process in the United States or internationally. From 2010 to 2012, it was a refund available regardless of the parents’ tax liability.
The effort to eliminate the credit provoked an outcry among pro-adoption groups, leading House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady to include reinstating the credit in an amendment that makes other changes to the bill.
That overall amendment was adopted along party lines Thursday afternoon, with Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, and Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, the two Ohioans on the panel, supporting it. The bill now will go to the House floor.
Amanda Caldwell was elated.
“There is just relief,” she said, acknowledging that she had been “pretty worried” about the elimination of the credit.
She is the mother of Alivia, 5, and Ava, 3, and has used the credit for both of their adoptions. It’s been invaluable, she said: Few families can scrape up the tens of thousands of dollars needed upfront to adopt, and knowing that the credit is available helps ease some of the stress.
Pickerington mother Jill Crumbacher, who works at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, was similarly thrilled. She adopted her daughter Abigail, now 12, from China in 2006. She spent Thursday afternoon texting prospective adoptive parents. “They are relieved,” she said. “Everyone is very excited that this isn’t going to be taken away.”
News that the credit might be eliminated had galvanized both the right and the left — a wide ideological swath that included anti-abortion rights groups and LGBTQ couples, who, research indicates, are four times more likely than straight couples to adopt.
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.”
Brady, a Republican from Texas, is an adoptive father of two who had originally backed eliminating the credit. He said that a “thoughtful discussion” led to 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 Thomas Foundation, said the organization is “thrilled,” having reached out privately to Tiberi who, she said, “is very passionate about this.”
Tiberi said he is pleased the credit was restored. “Our tax plan isn’t just pro-jobs; it is also most importantly pro-family.”
Thomas Taneff, a Columbus-area adoption lawyer 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 child a home.”
For parents who adopt out of foster care, the tax credit often helps cover the costs of the special needs that many foster kids have. For those adopting privately in the United States or internationally, it can offset costs ranging from $20,000 to more than $40,000.
Ohio also offers a $10,000 adoption tax credit; the two credits combined can, for some people, be essential to making an adoption affordable. 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. Use of the federal credit is not tracked by state, but the National Council for Adoption estimates that Ohio had 3,994 adoptions in 2014.
On the federal level, the credit is considered relatively inexpensive, costing the federal government some $300 million in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Now that the credit has been restored, Soronen and others would like to see it become a refund again, so parents can take advantage of it regardless of their tax liability.
“But we’ll celebrate this now,” she said.