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The Distributional Effects of the Tax Treatment of Child Care Expenses

In: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation

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  • William M. Gentry
  • Alison P. Hagy

Abstract

Tax relief for child care expenses, encompassing the Child Care Tax Credit and Dependent Care Assistance Plans, is the largest federal government program in the United States aimed at helping families with child care. We examine the distributional effects of these policies among families with children using both the National Child Care Survey and tax return data. Among families that use tax relief, the benefits average 1.24 percent of family income. Benefits as a percentage of income vary systematically over the income distribution. Despite being regressive at low income levels (mainly due to the credit being non-refundable), tax relief is progressively distributed over most of the income distribution with the ratio of benefits to income falling above the bottom quintile of the income distribution. The benefits of tax relief also vary among families with the same income depending on a family's structure and its labor market and child care choices.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld96-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6238.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6238

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    1. James J. Heckman, 1974. "Effects of Child-Care Programs on Women's Work Effort," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 136-169 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Michael Krashinsky, 1981. "Subsidies To Child Care: Public Policy and Optimality," Public Finance Review, , vol. 9(3), pages 243-269, July.
    3. Blau, David M & Robins, Philip K, 1988. "Child-Care Costs and Family Labor Supply," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 374-81, August.
    4. Charles Michalopoulos & Philip K. Robins & Irwin Garfinkel, 1992. "A Structural Model of Labor Supply and Child Care Demand," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(1), pages 166-203.
    5. Martin Feldstein & Daniel R. Feenberg, 1996. "The Taxation of Two-Earner Families," NBER Chapters, in: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation, pages 39-75 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Connelly, Rachel, 1992. "The Effect of Child Care Costs on Married Women's Labor Force Participation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(1), pages 83-90, February.
    7. Altshuler, Rosanne & Schwartz, Amy Ellen, 1996. "On the Progressivity of the Child Care Tax Credit: Snapshot Versus Time-Exposure Incidence," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(1), pages 55-71, March.
    8. Dunbar, Amy & Nordhauser, Susan, 1991. "Is the Child Care Credit Progressive?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(4), pages 519-28, December.
    9. Ribar, D.C., 1990. "Child Care And The Labor Supply Of Married Women: Reducted Form Evidence," Papers 9-90-9, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:
    1. Patricia M. Anderson & Philip B. Levine, 1999. "Child Care and Mothers' Employment Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Maria-Isabel Farfan-Portet & Vincent Lorant & Francesca Petrella, 2011. "Access to Childcare Services: The Role of Demand and Supply-Side Policies," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 165-183, April.
    3. David T. Ellwood & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "The Middle Class Parent Penalty: Child Benefits in the U.S. Tax Code," NBER Working Papers 8031, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Patricia Apps, 2001. "Why an Earned Income Tax Credit Program is a Mistake for Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 431, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

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