Georgia says ‘unborn child’ counts as dependent on taxes after 6 weeks

“Ma’am, I’m from the IRS and I’ll need to do a pelvic examination to prove your claim.”

From The Washington Post:

Under Georgia law, fetuses now have “full legal recognition” as living people. That means their parents can claim them as dependents on their tax returns — even before delivery.

The state’s department of revenue said Monday that it would begin recognizing “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat … as eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption” — amounting to $3,000. Taxpayers must be prepared to provide relevant medical records and documents if requested by the department.

The tax benefit is a byproduct of a law that went into effect July 20 banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Georgia House Bill 481 was initially approved in 2019 but was deemed unconstitutional, given the protections granted by Roe v. Wade. Once that long-standing precedent was overturned in June, a federal appeals court cleared the way for Georgia’s abortion ban to become law. The court also agreed that “personhood” could be redefined to include fetuses.

Georgia’s personhood provision is, for now, the most expansive. Not only does it grant tax breaks for fetuses, but it also requires that they be included in some population counts. It also imposes child support “on the father of an unborn child” — amounting to the “direct medical and pregnancy related expenses of the mother.”

But considering the prevalence of miscarriages and stillbirths, some wondered what the implications of the new tax policy could mean for those who experience pregnancy loss. Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis speculated on Twitter that the state’s treasury could end up “handing out a lot of cash for pregnancies that would never come to term.”

Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, questioned whether pregnancy loss could trigger an investigation. “So what happens when you claim your fetus as a dependent and then miscarry later in the pregnancy, you get investigated both for tax fraud and an illegal abortion?” she tweeted.

Neither the bill nor the guidance issued by the Georgia Department of Revenue addresses what would happen in the event of a miscarriage.

The law also creates other gray areas. For instance, what are the implications for couples using a surrogate? And when it comes to sperm donors or instances of uncertain paternity, who would be responsible for providing child support?

The Washington Post has contacted the Georgia Department of Revenue seeking clarification. The department’s guidance delineates that additional information — “including return instructions to claim the personal exemption for an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat” — will be issued later this year.

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