More than a half-dozen states are considering constitutional amendments, ballot measures or legislation that would declare a fertilized human egg (think back to your high school science classes and the word, “zygote”) to have the legal rights of a person.
I’m not going to get into the logic of this. Oh, heck, sure I will—it’s nuttier than a filbert orchard. The effect would be to outlaw abortion as murder, regardless of circumstance. An amendment to the Mississippi constitution that’s on a November 8 ballot would ban birth control methods such as IUDs and morning-after pills. This is stuff you’d expect to read about happening in the most backward of fundamentalist countries.
But hey, my job is to look at things from a tax standpoint. If a fertilized egg has the legal standing of a person, wouldn’t it logically follow that that tiny group of cells would qualify as someone who could be listed as a dependent on a tax return—just like any other person? And if that’s the case, then of course tax pros such as myself should start asking our clients during tax-season interviews if they are pregnant and if so, when they conceived, so we can determine if there was a potential deduction as of December 31 in the previous year.
(Let’s leave aside the inconvenient fact that most fertilized eggs actually never implant in the uterus. We’re not going to let reality get in the way of potential tax deductions.)
Wait wait, you say—federal law doesn’t recognize an infinitesimally small mass of 100 or 8 or four cells as a human being. No problem! Tax professionals already deal with many areas in which one set of rules apply for state income tax filings and another for federal. For example, same-sex couples in state-recognized domestic partnerships can file a joint state tax return at the state level even though they are barred from filing jointly at the federal level.
No reason we can’t have little Billy Blastocyte appearing as a qualifying deduction on state returns while being invisible on the federal return.
Not sure how we’ll handle the requirement that every “person” listed on a tax return have a Social Security Number.