A new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, details how tax subsidies that funnel money toward private schools are being used as profitable tax shelters by high-income taxpayers.
Further, legislation pending in Congress would create new opportunities for corporations and successful investors to earn huge profits by transferring public funding to private schools.
The legislation—the Educational Opportunities Act—would put two new federal voucher tax shelters within reach for many more Americans and lead to an explosion in funding for private schools. It would also keep in place an existing federal loophole that permits savvy taxpayers to benefit from ‘double dipping’ practices, where they receive a federal deduction and state tax credit on the same donation to a private school entity. At present, high-income taxpayers in nine of the 17 states offering voucher tax credits can turn a profit using this technique.
The report, Public Loss, Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education, describes how boosting resources for private schools while simultaneously providing tax breaks for wealthy taxpayers and corporations will greatly undermine public education.
The expanded voucher tax shelter proposal under consideration would allow the federal government to reimburse wealthy taxpayers (with tax credits) in return for providing funding to private schools on the government’s behalf. Further, the report says the legislation would “starve” public education of critical funding at a time when available federal resources are already limited.
“We are hopeful that our policymakers considering this legislation will continue to recognize the critical role that public education plays in keeping our nation moving forward,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “Rather than push education privatization schemes forward during tax reform, Congress must take action to address current loopholes that enable wealthy individuals and private schools to profit on the backs of America’s neediest public school students.”
“Supercharging the tax subsidies offered to people who donate to private school voucher organizations has created a host of problems,” said Carl Davis, research director, ITEP. “Even taxpayers who may have little or no interest in private schools are able to profit, at the public’s expense, by making heavily tax advantaged ‘donations.’ The Educational Opportunities Act would expand the potential for that type of profiteering.”
The report affirms:
- The Educational Opportunities Act would create a risk-free profit of up to 100 percent (up to $4,500 per year for individuals or $100,000 for corporations) in states with voucher tax credits.
- Seventeen states divert more than $1 billion per year toward private schools via school voucher credits. When combined with a federal tax loophole, nine of these states’ credits are so lucrative that they allow some upper-income taxpayers to turn a profit on contributions they make to fund private school vouchers.
- Details of this voucher tax shelter are unknown to most of the public, though private schools and savvy tax accountants have been advising wealthy taxpayers of its existence for years.
ITEP, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues. ITEP’s mission is to ensure that elected officials, the media, and the general public have access to accurate, timely, and straightforward information that allows them to understand the effects of current and proposed tax policies. For more information, visit www.itep.org.
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.