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Article in CQ News Highlights Refundable Adoption Tax Credit

The article below was published in CQ NEWS on June 17, 2015

Conservatives Push to Revive Obamacare Adoption Tax Break

By Alan K. Ota, CQ Roll Call

Rep. Diane Black has taken the lead strengthening GOP support for a bipartisan plan to revive refundable tax credits for adoption-related expenses that were part of the 2010 health care law but expired.

While the GOP looks to uproot pillars of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), conservatives such as Black, R-Tenn., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., are joining with the likes of Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., to support a proposal (HR 2434) Black says is needed to strengthen families. Black expressed confidence Republicans would support the measure, even though it revives language that was part of President Barack Obama’s top legislative achievement.

“I don’t think most people are even going to connect it to that. But even if they did, it is such and important issue I think that is something that people will find they can support,” Black said.

Black’s proposal and companion measure (S 950) by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., would restore language that made the adoption tax credit refundable for two years ending in 2011. Black said refundable incentives would support adoptions by low-income families, who do not earn enough taxable income to make use of tax credits.

“Almost half of all children adopted from foster care live in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty threshold. The tax code should work for these families that open their hearts and their homes to adoption — not against them,” Black said.

She and other supporters say the legislation would help to turn homes for more than 400,000 children In foster care into “forever homes” for adopted children. Currently, about 50,000 adoptions are arranged annually by public welfare agencies.

While emphasizing the benefits for low-income families, advocates like Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., say they are trying address concerns raised by deficit hawks about the potential for fraudulent claims for refundable incentives such as the earned income tax credit and child tax credit. “There is a lot of fraud out there, and there have to be consequences. But on this one, I think the chances for that are minimal, because of the nature of the process. And it is not a recurring benefit,” Tillis said

In addition to playing down fraud concerns, Franks has made the case that the refundable adoption credit would help to curb federal spending over time. “Keeping children in families saves society money by breaking children out of a cycle we know for so many, often leads to homelessness, welfare, incarceration or other tragic outcomes,” Franks said.

Families now may claim a credit for up to $13,190 for expenses related to adoption, including travel, legal and placement fees and other costs. The benefit was first enacted in 1996 (PL 104-188), expanded in 2001 (PL 107-16) and made permanent by the 2012 fiscal cliff deal (PL 112-240).

In coming weeks, Black and Casey say they’ll work with the 130-member bicameral adoption caucus, and they say the legislation could move as an add-on to must-pass legislation at the end of the year. Casey said he doubted the measure would be part of a potential business tax overhaul, but that it could be added to a package of tax break extensions.

“I think it will be in the context of extenders, or it could be a stand-alone bill,” Casey said.

Becky Weichhand, executive director of the Congressional Adoption Coalition Institute, an education and support group, said that the fate of adoption tax credit would hinge on the ability of lawmakers to build consensus in both parties, particularly within the GOP’s right wing.

“A lot of conservative members are supporting because they have spoken out about the moral obligation to support children living in families,” Weichhand said.

Letter to Rep. Camp

On February 26, 2014 the Ways and Means Chairman, Dave Camp (R-MI), released a tax reform proposal outlining his plan to reform the American tax code. The Tax Reform Act of 2014 would end the adoption tax credit. The discussion draft stated, “The adoption credit can be complex and overlaps with other tax provisions that provide tax benefits for families. Consolidating redundant and complex family tax benefits, such as the adoption credit, into an increased child credit and standard deduction would result in significant simplification.”

In June, the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group wrote a letter to the Chairman urging members of Congress to not eliminate the federal adoption tax credit and to improve it so that more adoptive families can benefit from this essential resource. View the letter

Thank You to Key Senators

On Friday, August 2, the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group sent letters to Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to thank them for their leadership in supporting a refundable adoption tax credit.

View the letters:

We Need Your Voice before July 19!

On June 27, Senators Baucus and Hatch circulated a Dear Colleague letter to Members of the United States Senate asking them for their participation in tax reform.  Members were informed that it is the Committee’s preference that the process start with a blank slate—eliminate all tax expenditures, both corporate and individual provisions. They were also told that to be re-included in the tax code a provision or proposal had to:

  1. help grow the economy,
  2. make the tax code fairer, or
  3. effectively promote other important policy objectives.   

In response to this, Senators are now preparing letters that include their priorities for tax reform.  These letters are due to the Finance Committee by July 26. In order for your Senators to be able to incorporate your ask into their letters, we need you to reach out to them by July 19.  The Adoption Tax Credit Working Executive Committee has prepared and distributed a letter to Members of Congress and asked them to include the adoption tax credit on their list of priority measures.  We need you to do the same.


We are calling on you today to ask you to:

  1. E-mail both of your Senators (you can adapt this template), asking them to demonstrate their support for the Adoption Tax Credit by: (1) including it in their list of priorities for tax reform and (2) co-sponsoring S. 1056. (You can find additional talking points in our letter. You can choose to send an automatic e-mail using a tool on the Resolve web site: (Resolve is one of the executive committee members of the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group.)

  2. Call your Senators and ask them to demonstrate their support for the Adoption Tax Credit by including it in their list of priorities for tax reform and cosponsoring S. 1056.

If you need to find your Senators’ contact information, go to, or call the Capitol Operator at 202-224-3121  and ask to be connected to your Senator’s office. Once you’ve reached the office, ask to speak to the legislative assistant who handles adoption or tax issues. (Repeat this to speak to your second Senator.)

Please contact your Senators today!


Working Group Wins Award

For its efforts to extend and enhance the adoption tax credit, the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group was selected by the Joint Council on International Children’s Services to receive its 2012-2013 Outstanding Child Advocate Award. The award is given to a person, organization or group for dedication and commitment to children and families to ensure they live, grow, and thrive to the best of their abilities.

“The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group was unanimously selected by the committee,” said Brian Franklin, Joint Council board chairman and award committee member.  “It was a no-brainer. The Working Group not only demonstrated how collaborations can work for children, but the outcome, a permanent adoption tax credit, will benefit hundreds of thousands of children for years to come. It is our honor to recognize the Working Group and its continued effort to do even more by making the Adoption Tax Credit refundable for all adoptive families.”

We are proud to receive the award and will continue to fight to make the adoption tax credit refundable. You can read a full press release here.

Recommendations Submitted to Congressional Tax Reform Working Group

In February 2013, the House Ways and Means Chairman, Dave Camp (R-MI), and Ranking Member, Sandy Levin (D-MI), announced the formation of 11 different Congressional Tax Reform Working Groups, which would review current tax law and identify and compile feedback related to the topic of the working group. The feedback is envisioned to come from several sources, including stakeholders, academics, practitioners, the general public, and other legislators.

The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group developed a written statement providing feedback on the adoption tax credit, and submitted it to the Education and Family Benefits Working Group, which is chaired by Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN) and vice chaired by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). Click here to read our statement, which was submitted to Congressional leaders reviewing tax reform.

Please Take Action on Tax Day, April 15!

On April 15, we ask you to contact your members of Congress—both on the House and Senate sides—to thank them for making the adoption tax credit permanent but also to ask them to make the credit refundable in the future. Below is a sample e-mail you can use. (Find your Senators at Find your Representatives at

Sample E-mail

Subject: Children Waiting to be Adopted & Adoptive Families Thank You! 

Dear Senator or Representative ______________________,

Thank you for making the Adoption Tax Credit permanent!  When Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, it made the adoption tax credit permanent; as a result it helped children find forever families. The credit makes adoption a more viable option for parents who might not otherwise be able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving families. With more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care available for adoption, and countless millions of orphaned and abandoned children around the world, the continuation of the Adoption Tax Credit is vital to providing love, safety, and permanency to children.

We are so grateful for your support of the Adoption Tax Credit, but more must be done. The Adoption Tax Credit was made permanent, but it lost a key provision when it was renewed – it is no longer refundable. This is devastating to many low and middle-income adoptive parents. One-third of all adopted children live in families with annual household incomes at or below 200% of the poverty level, meaning many do not have a tax liability and cannot utilize a non-refundable tax credit. Nationally nearly half  (46%) of families adopting from foster care are at or below 200% of poverty the level. A refundable Adoption Tax Credit makes an enormous difference in terms of which families are able to claim the credit. Many parents who provide loving homes to waiting children cannot use the non-refundable adoption tax credit at all – and these are among those who need it most.

We urge you to reinstate the refundable provision, which was in place in 2010 and 2011, so that all adopted children have the ability to benefit. It will encourage adoptions, particularly from foster care, and that will help ensure children have the permanent, loving family they need.


Please work with your colleagues this year to reinstate the refundable provision of the adoption tax credit – to ensure that children waiting to be adopted have the ability to thrive in a family of their own.


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