Today is tax day, which for the average American is stressful enough, but when you’re a member of the LGBT community, filing your taxes can be an even more burdensome task. As is outlined in Unequal Taxation and Undue Burdens for LGBT Families the latest companion report to All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families, the U.S. tax code creates incentives for married couples and families, providing tax credits, deductions and other financial benefits intended to ease the burdens on working families who are likely already stretched financially. But for same-sex couples and LGBT parents in particular, these financial benefits are almost completely out of reach.
Tax day for LGBT people is a particularly harsh reminder that we are second-class citizens. LGBT families have to navigate a tax code that, at best ignores us, and at worst affirmatively excludes us. Some families, depending on the state in which they live and whether or not their relationship to their partner or spouse is recognized, will have to prepare multiple returns in order to satisfy both state and federal tax law. Couples raising children generally have to prepare multiple returns to determine their best financial scenario – requiring parents to either “split up” their children, taking them as deductions on different tax returns, or deny having dependent children altogether. In states where it is impossible for a second parent to create legal relationships with their children, dependent tax credits and deductions may be completely unavailable.
This tax discrimination saddles LGBT families with additional financial burdens that many of them just cannot afford.
There is a general misconception that most LGBT people are wealthy and white. However, when you look at the demographics of the LGBT parenting community, what you find is a very different picture. There are 1 million LGBT parents raising 2 million children across the country. We are part of the American fabric and, on-average, same-sex couples raising children are more diverse and less financially secure than the general population. In 2010, 22% of all American children lived in poverty, with the same percentage of children living in households where their families worried about having enough food to put on the table. Children being raised by same-sex couples are twice as likely to live in poverty than kids being raised by opposite-sex parents. For families of color, these statistics are even worse. For example, the poverty rate for white lesbian couples raising children is 14%, while it is 16% for Asian Pacific Islanders, 29% for Native Americans and 32% for Latino and African American households. While data does not exist for transgender parents, we know that transgender Americans experience poverty at a rate 4 times greater than the general population so it is safe to assume that trans parents have significant struggles as well.
For families that are already struggling to make ends meet, inaccessibility to tax incentives, credits and deductions only reinforces this financial hardship.
The inequities that LGBT families face at tax time are unacceptable. We live in a country that is supposed to give everyone a fair shot – an equal opportunity at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. LGBT families must be given an equal opportunity to achieve these American ideals.