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An update on the special needs tax credit act "HR 1597": or, what may be the greatest civil rights bill since women won the right to vote.

Our Constitution guarantees all Americans Freedom of Speech and Equal Representation Under the Law. But, what if your adult child cannot effectively communicate their needs, or make an informed decision? Often, legal guardianship is the solution, which allows a parent to make legal, financial and health care decisions for their child. This process may cost between $3,000 and $5,000, involving attorneys, doctors, social workers, and the court system.

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But what if the parents cannot easily afford thousands of dollars to speak on behalf of their child? Therein lies the "catch-22," and as a result, many young adults (18 and older) do not have a voice in their affairs. Who, then, speaks for the child?

Six years ago, my wife and I attended a symposium on Guardianship, with a veritable "who's-who" of Elder Law attorneys and professional guardians in South Florida. During the program, one Mom stood up and asked "Why do I have to pay $5,000 to become guardian to speak for my own child?" I then stood and asked "Why can't we get a tax refund for that amount?" The whole room went silent. And that was my "Ah-ha!" moment.

In its November, 2009 issue, Exceptional Parent magazine published an article titled "An Affordable Proposal for Guardianship: The Special Needs Tax Credit Bill." Earlier that year, international legal firm Proskauer, LLC helped us create the Special Needs Tax Credit Alliance, Inc., "pro bono," at no cost to us, as a State of Florida nonprofit organization, and recognition by the IRS as a 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization, dedicated to creation and passage of a federal tax amendment to give low and moderate income parents (limit $75,000 one-parent, $150,000 two-parent) a one-time $5,000 "refundable tax credit," for the costs of establishing Guardianship for a person with disabilities. This credit would give a dollar-for-dollar refund of up to $5,000 against their tax bill, and a cash refund if they didn't owe the full amount.

With a donation from another leading Elder Law attorney in Delray Beach, we went to Washington, DC, and met with representatives of Congressman Ander Crenshaw and Congressman Robert Wexler. Six months later, we received a call from Congressman Wexler's legislative assistant, and advised the Congressman was interested in introducing the Bill, which I called the "Special Needs Tax Credit."

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Within days, we began forwarding notes, and crafted the language and concepts for the bill. During that time, we received assistance from another Board Certified attorney in Boca Raton, who explained the tax rules and guidelines, as they would be referred to in the proposal.

Later that year, Congressman Wexler stepped down from his office to lead a nonprofit Mid-East peace initiative, and Congressman Ted Deutch won the district election. We met with Congressman Deutch, who wanted to continue the effort and sponsor the legislation when the Bill was completed.

On March 2, 2011, during the 112th session of Congress, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-19) introduced House Resolution 878. A true SUCCESS in the non-profit and legislative processes--with almost no money--we introduced a Bill in the United States Congress, having been created pro bono by an internationally-recognized legal firm!

Over the next two years, eight additional Congressmen signed on as co-sponsors: McKinley (WV-1), Maloney (NY-14), Brown (FL-3), Meeks (NY-6), Doggett (TX-25), Sessions (TX-32), Hastings (FL-20), and Doyle (PA- 14).

Now, in the current 113th session of Congress, the Bill has been reintroduced as HR 1597 by Congressman Deutch, and has been officially designated as the Special Needs Tax Credit Act. In October, 2013, Congressman Alcee Hastings signed on again as a co-sponsor of the Bill.

The organization, Special Needs Tax Credit Alliance, is continuing to gather signatures on their petition supporting HR 1597, for federal tax reimbursement to parents for the expense of becoming legal guardians of their child, one who needs that level of support. A copy of the petition may be found in the "sidebar" of this article.

Besides the common sense ideas of expanding Democracy, that everyone deserves to have a voice, or someone to speak for them, and "Liberty and Justice for All, not for Most," there are additional benefits of this Bill, if and when it becomes part of the Internal Revenue Code.

If more individuals who need a guardian have one, there would be less need and expense for county courts to appoint guardians ad litem, or public guardians. In addition, if more families were better able to afford the short-term, out-of-pocket expense of becoming guardian, knowing the costs (up to $5,000) would be reimbursed from their own tax dollars, there would be more business for the professionals who work in the guardianship industry, creating more taxable income from their salaries BACK TO the IRS, and possibly create more jobs.

In short, this is the greatest civil rights bill ("disguised" as a tax bill) in the past 90 years, since women won the right to vote. With the unfortunate increasing population of our children who may not have certain capacities, there is growing need for parents to be able to afford to speak for their child who cannot speak for himself.

Reimbursement of this expense, which parents of "typical" children do not endure, corrects a gap in our Bill of Rights, which guarantees Freedom of Speech and Equal Representation Under the Law for all.

As a 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization, donations are not tax-deductible to the donor, but are tax-free for the organization's use. There are currently no salaries paid to any directors or volunteers, but the organization has drafted a four-year, $500,000 funding plan to expand awareness nationally. A copy of the Bill can be downloaded from www.specialneedstaxcredit.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jaret Vogel is the step-parent of a young adult with Autism, Director of the Special Needs Tax Credit Alliance, Inc., and Associate Director of Prosperity Life Planning, Inc. He has worked with special needs families for the past eight years alongside his wife, Karen Greenberg. He also has worked in the financial services industry for the past 30 years.

For more information, contact Jaret L. Vogel at Special Needs Tax Credit Alliance, 4673 Brady Boulevard, Delray Beach, FL 33445. 561-239-0054. Info@specialneedstaxcredit.org
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Title Annotation:FINANCIAL & TAX PLANNING
Author:Vogel, Jaret L.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2013
Words:1040
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