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Subject: Tax Rant - Think of the children! rss

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Neil Carr
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For the first time in many years I'm getting my taxes done before the deadline. Rather than using my winter break from school to just do school work, I'm “relaxing” a bit and doing my taxes! Now that I'm done, I can relax a bit more and write a whiny rant I've been wanting to say about taxes for many years...

My whole life I'd been regaled by older family members about how much of a boon owing a house and having children is for your taxes. I never got specific numbers, but it always sounded like heaps of money would pour back towards you because of the tax code. So when these milestones finally happened in my life I thought a vast bounty awaited me at refund time. Not so much...

I use Turbo Tax to do my taxes and so when I'd enter my mortgage interest paid ($6512) my finger would hover over the return key, expecting that return meter to zoom upward as soon as I pressed it, but nothing... frozen in place. Argh!

Next, I enter in children. I KNOW I have to be getting something for this. I put in their details and then the meter goes up, a bit, that is, it goes up $1000 for each of my girls. That's it? Just a $1000 per kid? That isn't really helping things out at our income level ($80k household). It helps us stumble through the year a smidge, but it doesn't really have a significant impact on our home economics. I have co-workers that don't make much money and they do get the EIC which is far more in line with what I'd expected ($5000+ for two kids) for having children.

What's truly maddening though is how daycare is handled. You can get credit for that, so I plug in $17,760 for the year. Now THAT ought to give us a sweet return! The next page flashes up saying “Congratulations! You have a $200 credit!” $200!?! That's it? It can't even just be a straight out, full on deduction? Blorg!!!!

We do have that $5000 dependent care fund, which when you fuss around with the math saves us around $700 in taxes, but still, getting a net of $900 for $17k on child care is just wrong.

So my frustration is in part expectations that are out of proportion with what was being sold to me, but it's also that the tax code really isn't helping parents the way it ought to be. We're raising the next generation of tax payers, innovators and really the fundamental elements of a continued civil society and the investment in that human capital is woefully underfunded.

My wife and I are in a weird income zone where we make too much for EIC, but not enough that we can comfortably absorb the daycare costs and still pay for everything that needs to be paid for in the present and future. We currently lurch from paycheck to paycheck to take care of daycare payments ($330 a week) and the end result is that we have to put numerous expenses on credit cards through the year and then use the refund to clear that debt. Our refund is always around $4500, so enough to clear credit card debts, and pay for a few other surprise expenses. It never folds back into savings.

What do we need? We really need around $10k in a refund. That would let us clear the debt and then have a pool of money that could go into savings and/or go into other purchases that actually advance us along, rather than just hang in place on the monkey bars. Two years of a “proper” refund would get us to that magical 3-months of income savings that everyone is supposed to have.

Rant complete. That helped, I am more relaxed.
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Robert Wesley
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Well, if "wishes" were 'talking ponies' then they'd hound lil Deb too INSIST that "JET FUEL" won't MELT steel nor shake
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Ken
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echoota wrote:
So my frustration is in part expectations that are out of proportion with what was being sold to me, but it's also that the tax code really isn't helping parents the way it ought to be.


It really hasn't for decades. Worse, the dependent care account or a health savings account that lots of people have available don't come close to covering the true costs of quality day care - we took it in the shorts for ten years before we relocated so that my wife could stay home with the kids.

I'll be very happy to hear a politician get up and talk honestly about the critical issues that we're facing. The costs of Social Security and Medicare are such that we simply don't have the flexibility to really address any other priorities until we tackle them honestly. In lots of ways, we've mortgaged my retirement (I'll turn 50 this year) and my kids' future to fund my parents' generation as they age to cover their social security and medical care. It chews up north of 50% of our budget (and that % is growing) and effectively starves any options that we have to address other priorities. At some point, we need to take on key issues like the retirement age and the fact that we fully socialize the most expensive phase of our life for medical care. When a politician is willing to actually talk about addressing those issues honestly, they'll get my attention and perhaps even my vote (some solutions won't do that - full privatization simply isn't an option for me - at least, not unless I'm refunded literally every penny in taxes I've paid into the two programs as a part of it, and that's never going to happen).

If you haven't read The Benefit and the Burden, I highly recommend it. It's a bit old, but the message it delivers on the mess we've mad out of the tax code still resonates.
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Grand Admiral Thrawn
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My goal is no wife, no kids, no house.

And the EIC is awesome. It only amounts to like one substitute teacher paycheck, but that's good for me!

But wondering, why is childcare so expensive? Isn't it just babysitting? My friend in rural Maryland was telling me they have to sign a contract, and even if one parent stays home from work with the kids, they still have to pay the person for that day. That's insane.
 
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Grand Admiral Thrawn
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perfalbion wrote:
I'll be very happy to hear a politician get up and talk honestly about the critical issues that we're facing.

I think we're stuck with whatever system we have for a while, until at least the inequality gets to 1890 levels, because it benefits those in power. The good news is that the high education and healthcare costs and loans make people less inclined to marry in their late 20s, settle down with a big mortgage in the 'burbs, and have 2 kids, which I just feel is a cookie-cutter lifestyle.
 
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Grand Admiral Thrawn
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einsteinidahosu wrote:
'burbs

I grew up in the burbiest burb in New Jersey (which itself is famous for burbs), so forgive my distaste.
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Neil Carr
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einsteinidahosu wrote:
But wondering, why is childcare so expensive? Isn't it just babysitting? My friend in rural Maryland was telling me they have to sign a contract, and even if one parent stays home from work with the kids, they still have to pay the person for that day. That's insane.


You can get cheaper childcare in our area if you hand your kinds off to an individual who works out of their home, so in that way it resembles much more of your basic babysitting.

On just reliability and logistics though my wife and I wouldn't want to do that. Our girls go to a childcare center, so there is a whole team of staff members on site. They have the capacity to absorb staff members who are sick, or need to go to appointments, or any of the other things one needs to tend to in life. Life is complicated and so having an institution, rather than a lone person, helps smooth out the complexity.

But beyond that it isn't just baby sitting. The center run enrichment activities, the staff are trained to work with children properly, and they have the capacity to mediate and intervene in a lot of complicated situations in a professional manner. I don't just want my children to be alive at the end of the day, I want them to be cognitively, emotionally and socially growing and prospering, particularly since it's 45 hours a week they are away from us.

One of the saddest things is that $330 is an inadequate amount per week for the value the staff pour of themselves into their jobs. It really ought to be double or triple that price, but of course most people can't afford that. We certainly can't, but as teachers my wife and I can clearly see just how much professionalism is going into the work for our children and know only too well how undervalued that work is in our society.
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Oliver Dienz
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echoota wrote:
For the first time in many years I'm getting my taxes done before the deadline. Rather than using my winter break from school to just do school work, I'm “relaxing” a bit and doing my taxes! Now that I'm done, I can relax a bit more and write a whiny rant I've been wanting to say about taxes for many years...

My whole life I'd been regaled by older family members about how much of a boon owing a house and having children is for your taxes. I never got specific numbers, but it always sounded like heaps of money would pour back towards you because of the tax code. So when these milestones finally happened in my life I thought a vast bounty awaited me at refund time. Not so much...


I can totally relate. Yes, children are an expensive hobby...

Quote:
I use Turbo Tax to do my taxes and so when I'd enter my mortgage interest paid ($6512) my finger would hover over the return key, expecting that return meter to zoom upward as soon as I pressed it, but nothing... frozen in place. Argh!

I guess it did not move because the interest plus your other deductions were not more than the standard deduction of $12,600 for 2016. I assume Turbo Tax applies that automatically and only considers the individual deductions if the amount goes over the standard. Having your own home is again just your personal hobby...

Quote:
What's truly maddening though is how daycare is handled. You can get credit for that, so I plug in $17,760 for the year. Now THAT ought to give us a sweet return! The next page flashes up saying “Congratulations! You have a $200 credit!” $200!?! That's it? It can't even just be a straight out, full on deduction? Blorg!!!!

We do have that $5000 dependent care fund, which when you fuss around with the math saves us around $700 in taxes, but still, getting a net of $900 for $17k on child care is just wrong.


That should be more than $700. At your income you are likely at the 28% marginal tax rate so the flex account should save you ~$1400. Otherwise, I would stop doing it and use the dependent care credit as that should get you 20% of $6000 = $1200. (It was always my belief that the main benefit of the flex account is that you have access to the money during the year and not just at refund time.)

Quote:
So my frustration is in part expectations that are out of proportion with what was being sold to me, but it's also that the tax code really isn't helping parents the way it ought to be. We're raising the next generation of tax payers, innovators and really the fundamental elements of a continued civil society and the investment in that human capital is woefully underfunded.

I agree but don't tell that those Vermonters that think their property taxes are too high.

Quote:
My wife and I are in a weird income zone where we make too much for EIC, but not enough that we can comfortably absorb the daycare costs and still pay for everything that needs to be paid for in the present and future. We currently lurch from paycheck to paycheck to take care of daycare payments ($330 a week) and the end result is that we have to put numerous expenses on credit cards through the year and then use the refund to clear that debt. Our refund is always around $4500, so enough to clear credit card debts, and pay for a few other surprise expenses. It never folds back into savings.


Your refund is way too high. (Yes, I am not kidding.) Ideally, it should be around $0 or even slightly negative. It means you had too much withheld from your paychecks during the year. You should check the exemptions on your W-4 forms. At least the one of you who had more Fed tax withheld (compare your W-2s) should add one if not two more exemptions. That should bump up your paycheck and maybe get you by without having to resort to high interest credit card debt.

Quote:
What do we need? We really need around $10k in a refund. That would let us clear the debt and then have a pool of money that could go into savings and/or go into other purchases that actually advance us along, rather than just hang in place on the monkey bars. Two years of a “proper” refund would get us to that magical 3-months of income savings that everyone is supposed to have.

Hang in there. It gets better once the kids are in school. That should significantly increase your ability to save (mostly for college, of course soblue).
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Steve
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People, the problem is not that taxes are too high.

The problem is that wages have been flat for 35 to 40 years now, while productivity has been going up at the normal rate.

This means that you and you wife should be earning about double what you are now. So, the problem is that incomes for most of us are too low.

The money would be coming out of the pockets of the 1%.

This would increase your costs some, but it has been shown that raising the min. wage doesn't cost jobs and increase the customers costs. It cause more churning of the money in the economy which increase incomes of small business owners. So, *you* would not have to bare the burden of those workers of the small businesses earning more money.

The Repubs say this about tax cuts all the time. It actually works for min. wage increases.

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Ken
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einsteinidahosu wrote:
But wondering, why is childcare so expensive? Isn't it just babysitting?


It's just about always more than babysitting - good daycare facilities provide activities, some forms of education (tutoring/homework help, pre-K work, etc.), snacks and sometimes meals (depending on facility and time of day), even trips. But even if it were "just" babysitting, you'd probably be looking at $10/hr/kid, which is likely to be at least $120/week for most working parents. That's north of $6k annually per child.

Licensed day care is costly. Unlicensed day care is potentially dangerous and may be illegal depending on where you live.

Quote:
My friend in rural Maryland was telling me they have to sign a contract, and even if one parent stays home from work with the kids, they still have to pay the person for that day. That's insane.


It's not insane. They have to plan for your kid - space, staff, food, etc. If you rent office space, do you get a refund because you choose to work from home for a day? Same thing - whether you used it or not, they set it aside for you except this includes more than space, utilities, and maybe a janitor or receptionist.
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Ken
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einsteinidahosu wrote:
I think we're stuck with whatever system we have for a while, until at least the inequality gets to 1890 levels, because it benefits those in power.


It doesn't benefit those in power. It scares the living shit out of them because if they suggest fixing it, they know they'll get crushed in the next election by the voting bloc that turns out most reliably. It's sheer cowardice and more than a bit of deceit.

But this is likely to change as demographics continue to shift. As my generation realizes how big the shaft we're getting is and my kids grow into their political muscle, it's likely to get a lot easier to engineer a fix as the older voters die out.
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perfalbion wrote:
einsteinidahosu wrote:
I think we're stuck with whatever system we have for a while, until at least the inequality gets to 1890 levels, because it benefits those in power.


It doesn't benefit those in power. It scares the living shit out of them because if they suggest fixing it, they know they'll get crushed in the next election by the voting bloc that turns out most reliably. It's sheer cowardice and more than a bit of deceit.

But this is likely to change as demographics continue to shift. As my generation realizes how big the shaft we're getting is and my kids grow into their political muscle, it's likely to get a lot easier to engineer a fix as the older voters die out.

I think that he meant that those in power are the ones who decide who got elected last election.

He didn't mean the current Reps and Senators.

He meant the 1%.

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I'm not sure that "home ownership" is meant to be a hands-free "we've done it, now we're set for life" sort of boon as some seem to read it.

And, to be clear, I'm not suggesting you need to go full-on "Fixer-Upper", here, but...

I think most folks would be a bit surprised how much return on investment they can get with just replacing what walls/electrical/fixtures are present, and resurfacing floors and sanding/scraping/repainting...ummm...everything. It's a LOT of man-hours of busy work before you get to the detail work, but...well, that's what kids are for, right? And at that level, 'remodeling' is very, VERY trivially simple work that ANYONE can do (who is capable of using Google and/or YouTube).

I mean, been a while, but...bought our first house with $0 down and a $45k mortgage (at like 20% interest rate), sold it for $90k after 5 or so years of that kind of work. Paid off that mortgage and $45k down on a $160 house that we then sold for $300k after about 4 years, etc, et al. Married 20 years, now, and if this last one sells for the most recent offer we just got...I'll be a happy camper!

I can tell you that, just looking at the current market value of the house we started in - if we'd managed to pay off that mortgage in full and had its current market value in pure assets...vs where we are, now, moving...ehhhh...5 times? It's...well, many...times the value than if we'd just stayed in one spot. And, obviously, given that we ACTUALLY started with literally $0 instead of the full value of that house....that math doesn't work at all.

IE., it's really not about the mortgage deduction, so much as the fact that 'rent' money is just wasted money you don't get back. When you sell a property YOU OWN, then (as long as you are doing it at the right point in the market, and put in effort to improve the property over time) you usually can expect to get back everything you would have "paid into it" as rent checks, which becomes additional investment into a new place you otherwise wouldn't have.

So, I guess, just...don't ever sit idle, or rest in one spot, after achieving some goal? If only there was some kind of catchy saying about that...
 
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XanderF wrote:
I think most folks would be a bit surprised how much return on investment they can get with just replacing what walls/electrical/fixtures are present, and resurfacing floors and sanding/scraping/repainting...ummm...everything. It's a LOT of man-hours of busy work before you get to the detail work, but...well, that's what kids are for, right? And at that level, 'remodeling' is very, VERY trivially simple work that ANYONE can do (who is capable of using Google and/or YouTube).

This is quite possibly the most dangerously irresponsible idea I've ever seen posted on BGG. My counter-argument: A repost of the most important advice I've ever given

Maybe you & your spouse have the kind of relationship which can survive living in a house while you're working on it, but, based on the people I know, most don't.

XanderF wrote:
When you sell a property YOU OWN, then (as long as you are doing it at the right point in the market

That's the important part. Unless you're increasing your square footage, none of that work you do increases your house's value.
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kuhrusty wrote:
XanderF wrote:
When you sell a property YOU OWN, then (as long as you are doing it at the right point in the market

That's the important part. Unless you're increasing your square footage, none of that work you do increases your house's value.


Disagree, but in nuance. A *lot* of what people THINK increases the value - really doesn't. Then age AND LOCATION of the house plays a BIG factor. Like...buy a newly-built (>= 1980) house in a development? Yeah, you're going to be really stretching to make anything on that. But you knew that when buying it, right?

Anything earlier than that (and not in a development - never buy in a development, why would anyone ever do that?), and replace/significantly remodel the kitchen and bathrooms...

It's surprisingly little work (even...ummm...adding a skylight) - and you definitely get your money back out of it!

Which makes sense, no? If it's "move-in ready" when you BUY it, then...what, exactly, do you think you are going to add to it? Sure 'square footage' does work, but....*oof*....now THAT is a LOT of work for low gain...
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Robert Stuart
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I'm in complete agreement with you. Those of us who have raised children on an 'average' income are only too familiar with this inequity in the tax laws.

Does the government want us to have & raise children, or not? If it does, then the legitimate costs of raising children should be tax deductible!

Regarding education alone: there's more to education than the schools can provide -- things like music lessons, art lessons, selected sports activities. These all go into enhancing the quality of life of future adults. As one example I'm convinced that, statistically speaking, scientists & engineers who have learned to play a musical instrument in their childhood, make better scientists & engineers. But extra lessons can be expensive. Shouldn't these things also be tax deductible, on top of the extra expenses families with children bear for basics, like food, clothing & housing?


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perfalbion wrote:
einsteinidahosu wrote:
I think we're stuck with whatever system we have for a while, until at least the inequality gets to 1890 levels, because it benefits those in power.


It doesn't benefit those in power. It scares the living shit out of them because if they suggest fixing it, they know they'll get crushed in the next election by the voting bloc that turns out most reliably. It's sheer cowardice and more than a bit of deceit.

But this is likely to change as demographics continue to shift. As my generation realizes how big the shaft we're getting is and my kids grow into their political muscle, it's likely to get a lot easier to engineer a fix as the older voters die out.

Let's hope that's true! And it probably is. From what I've seen so far this younger generation coming up has a stronger feel for the common good, than did my generation.
 
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KrazyIrish89 wrote:
Steve1501 wrote:
People, the problem is not that taxes are too high.

The problem is that wages have been flat for 35 to 40 years now, while productivity has been going up at the normal rate.

This means that you and you wife should be earning about double what you are now. So, the problem is that incomes for most of us are too low.

The money would be coming out of the pockets of the 1%.

This would increase your costs some, but it has been shown that raising the min. wage doesn't cost jobs and increase the customers costs. It cause more churning of the money in the economy which increase incomes of small business owners. So, *you* would not have to bare the burden of those workers of the small businesses earning more money.

The Repubs say this about tax cuts all the time. It actually works for min. wage increases.



Want to know part of the problem? On the immigration thread we have a green card holder bragging about making sooo much more than most Americans and wanting to vastly increase similar immigration. Employment-based immigration should only be for positions that absolutely cannot be filled by American workers.


Just what is the "Irish" in your username stand for (and what makes you an "American" worker?)
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KrazyIrish89 wrote:
(Although to be fair the biggest problem I had with the guys post was him talking about how he essentially couldn't wait to vote so he could vote to vastly increase immigration (5 million people a year) and essentially couldn't wait until all the old white people who oppose such policies die off).

Is that what he wrote?

KrazyIrish89 wrote:
Want to know part of the problem? On the immigration thread we have a green card holder bragging about making sooo much more than most Americans and wanting to vastly increase similar immigration. Employment-based immigration should only be for positions that absolutely cannot be filled by American workers.

An immigrant earning a significant salary is almost evidence he or she is providing a service or skill set an American couldn't.

What else is the incentive for a business to hire immigrants and pay them more than Americans?
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The government sure doesn't make it easy for us to out breed the terrorists.
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Wow... It sounds like you are spending more on day care than 20% of u.s. citizens make for a living. Unless you have a lot of kids, that's a lot of money on day care.

I understand you are upset but I think you are being unrealistic.

Everyone feels their taxes are high.

You might consider what is the total percentage of your gross income that goes to federal taxes? When I was making 6 figures, federal taxes were about 16% of my gross. From your day care and home interest payment, it sounds like your household income is considerably higher. So your federal income taxes are probably under 25% of your gross.

Taxes are not the element making life tough. It's more likely eating out, star bucks, a shorter computer/smart phone/tablet upgrade cycle, vacations, spending to feel happy, etc. I can't know without knowing your exact finances which I don't care to know. But I've known people who made more money than me but were always short on money and those were common factors.

The school activities are also a luxury- not a necessity. Same for $800 high school prom dresses.

Take solace in the fact that sales taxes and excise taxes are probably a much smaller part of your income than they are for people with lower incomes.




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Coming from the perspective that my wife stayed home to raise our kids instead of relying on day care, I've never understood why the government should subsidize outside daycare.

I'd be all for increasing the child deduction*, but would really prefer that it be a general "you have a kid" rather than you spent $X on a specific service like daycare. That way parents making our decision would also be rewarded for raising productive new member of society.


*and this wouldn't help us much, our "baby" is 19.
 
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qzhdad wrote:
Coming from the perspective that my wife stayed home to raise our kids instead of relying on day care, I've never understood why the government should subsidize outside daycare.

I'd be all for increasing the child deduction*, but would really prefer that it be a general "you have a kid" rather than you spent $X on a specific service like daycare. That way parents making our decision would also be rewarded for raising productive new member of society.


*and this wouldn't help us much, our "baby" is 19.


So, simply put, you appear to be describing a personal situation where either your sole income was enough to support your family or if you had both worked, the dual income would cover the day care.

Having two or more children can, for lower level earners, move them into a reality where the one income is inadequate, and the two incomes + child care are also inadequate.

If you are working part time jobs, without benefits, I think it is particularly easy to be confronted with a reality where the job does not cover the child care costs.
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Doc Mage wrote:


So, simply put, you appear to be describing a personal situation where either your sole income was enough to support your family or if you had both worked, the dual income would cover the day care.

Having two or more children can, for lower level earners, move them into a reality where the one income is inadequate, and the two incomes + child care are also inadequate.

If you are working part time jobs, without benefits, I think it is particularly easy to be confronted with a reality where the job does not cover the child care costs.


Well, simply put, we decided to make the necessary sacrifices in lifestyle to make living on a single income while raising a family possible.

I'd also argue that for people that can't afford to have one parent stay home or to pay for childcare that a tax deduction isn't the best way to assist them.

Some families can't afford to have children and we don't want children starving. Telling people not to have kids until they can afford it is a non-starter, even if it might be the best approach.

My point wasn't to not support families, but to raise the general deduction/credit for children rather than leaving it where it is and additionally subsidizing child care. Give families the extra support, but allow them to decide where to spend it. (Or allow a mother or father to "charge" the family for daycare and deduct that.)

The current system is just a government subsidy to the daycare industry.
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qzhdad wrote:
Doc Mage wrote:


So, simply put, you appear to be describing a personal situation where either your sole income was enough to support your family or if you had both worked, the dual income would cover the day care.

Having two or more children can, for lower level earners, move them into a reality where the one income is inadequate, and the two incomes + child care are also inadequate.

If you are working part time jobs, without benefits, I think it is particularly easy to be confronted with a reality where the job does not cover the child care costs.


Well, simply put, we decided to make the necessary sacrifices in lifestyle to make living on a single income while raising a family possible.

I'd also argue that for people that can't afford to have one parent stay home or to pay for childcare that a tax deduction isn't the best way to assist them.

Some families can't afford to have children and we don't want children starving. Telling people not to have kids until they can afford it is a non-starter, even if it might be the best approach.

My point wasn't to not support families, but to raise the general deduction/credit for children rather than leaving it where it is and additionally subsidizing child care. Give families the extra support, but allow them to decide where to spend it. (Or allow a mother or father to "charge" the family for daycare and deduct that.)

The current system is just a government subsidy to the daycare industry.


There are plenty of good reasons the credit is in place, but nobody said it is good for all situations.

Not having bred and shackled myself to the deck of a ship taking on water, I can't comment to the details - I just feel bad for those in this situation.

Then again, I don't really like the idea that any child costs are subsidized, but I understand why its the case - incentivization to fuck and breed, keeping the resource river flowing.

I also wholly support the extra monies for those that care for children with disabilities, because that is a job for the saints.

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