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Supreme Courts Rules in Favor of Tax Credits
posted by: Colin | April 05, 2011, 06:45 PM   

The high court ruled 5-4 in favor of an Arizona scholarship program that has mainly benefited religious schools in offering a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income tax bill of taxpayers who participate in the program.

For more than 13 years, Arizona has allowed residents to send up to $500 to a tuition scholarship organization that they would have otherwise paid the state in taxes on their incomes. The state has passed up nearly $350 million in income tax payments over the course of the scholarship program.

Because the program operates as a tax credit and not direct funding, "contributions result from the decisions of private taxpayers regarding their own funds," Justice Kennedy said in his majority opinion.

The decision is being hailed as a victory for school choice advocates, citing the public's right to spend their tax dollars as they choose and enabling parents to make decisions that reflect the best interest of their children.

Others argue that that the tax credits defund public schools at a time when districts are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls. "It is wrong to use public money at schools that have no public oversight and are not required to accept all students," argued Washington Post Columnist Valerie Strauss.

However, according to the high court and choice advocates, the money isn't public, rather the taxpayer's own. "The court's reasoning is sound. The government does not own 100 percent of every American's paycheck. The donations are private money, not government money," stated David Cortman, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund.

The Supreme Court's ruling sets a legal precedent that allows private citizens to contribute to a private, religious, and or educational cause, giving power back to the taxpayer to spend their money as they see fit.

Time will tell if this legal argument will spread to other state tax-credit programs, especially at a time when states and localities are facing difficult financial decisions.

What do you think of the decision? Should taxpayers be able to choose where they spend their money or should those dollars be off-limits?
Comment below.

>> Originally posted by Alix on the AAE Blog.

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