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The following question was asked yesterday:

Day Care Tax Deduction

In the US, are day-care expenses tax deductible? And if so under what conditions?

For example, if one parent is working, but the other is still going to (graduate) school, is any kind of deduction possible?

While this specific question is clearly off-topic, due to the specificity with which the questioner asked (specifying the explicit details about whether the deduction applies with one parent in grad school), is the more generic question

What options do I have for tax deductions or credits related to my daycare expenses? What do I need to pay attention to?

acceptable for this site? Karl already explained in chat why it is not too localized; however, it was put on hold as not being sufficiently parenting-related (see this chat for more details).

Are questions about the mechanics of parenting (ie, taxes, finance, etc.) acceptable on this site? If so, what are the limits?

  • Note: I'm asking over at money.SE to see if it's on topic there. – Karl Bielefeldt Feb 3 '14 at 18:38
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    I thought about that also, but honestly I think the question here might be on-topic regardless of the answer from Personal Finance & Money. – Joe Feb 3 '14 at 19:32
  • I think part of the problem with the question is that it is related to how to do one's taxes regarding qualifications for deductions and therefore tax law. In this way, it may be more of a legal question. I wonder if Joe isn't correct in questioning whether it would be more appropriate for Personal Finance and money? – balanced mama Feb 3 '14 at 23:53
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No.

I feel that tax questions are off-topic here. They are much more related to personal finance than to parenting. This Parenting site exists to help make us better parents, and deducting tax from daycare doesn't make a difference in how we raise our children.

Someone could propose that a particular family is so strapped for money that they can only provide some certain benefit if they can deduct the cost from the taxes, and use this as an argument why tax questions have a parenting benefit, but that would be pretty far-fetched.

It seems to me that the essence of a tax question is, How can I reduce my expenses for a particular service? This is basically about my money, not about my kids. And when you look at the answers on the question, they are all purely about personal finance and not about parenting.

  • I was on the fence on this one, but I agree with your reasoning. Furthermore, after seeing the responses it has received on the Personal Finance SE, the answers there not only seem very good, but also completely unrelated to parenting (hindsight being 20/20, of course). – user420 Feb 4 '14 at 14:34
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    @Beofett: There's also a confirmation bias, of course, because Money.SE users would be unlikely to respond with a parenting post. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 4 '14 at 14:41
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    True, but what would a parenting response to that question look like? Joe's example from a parenting perspective still seems unrelated to parenting. – user420 Feb 4 '14 at 14:52
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    @Beofett: I can't think of a parenting-focused response either :) – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 4 '14 at 15:10
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I feel that this question, appropriately reworded as above, should be on-topic for this site. Part of parenting is figuring out the financial side of things, and while this site shouldn't be including general personal finance questions, those questions sufficiently specific to parents - such as daycare, education, etc. - should be appropriate for this site. So long as the question doesn't expect legal or accountant-level advice, but rather advice from other parents (and perhaps daycare providers, as they often are semi-experts in the subject), it should be acceptable.

I would propose an answer to the above question on the lines of:

In the US, there are two major tax credits/deductions available for daycare. There is the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which is a maximum of $3000 per child and a maximum of $6000 in total; and there is the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, which allows up to $5000 of pre-tax money to be withdrawn from your paycheck to cover approved dependent care expenses (such as daycare) per year (not per child).

(fleshed out details of difference between the two, referring to the pre-tax benefits of FSA such as no SS or FICA contributions, and the extra $1000 from the CDCC if you have two kids and use the FSA; and FSA use-it-or-lose-it; and high-level details about both parents having income in order to claim either.)

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There can never exist a good answer to this question. Whatever anyone writes is going to be only applicable to a certain amount of people - it depends on their country or state or even town (some towns have dedicated pro-children programs).

However, there are several pros to leaving the question open. One of them is that since this site is in english, there is a good chance that if the answer is googled it will apply to the person searching. People looking for legal advice will look for it in their own language. If there were three-four good answers, one for UK, USA and Australia, maybe Canada. A lot of people may find these answers useful.

But there is one point which is not discussable. The what is on-topic help section clearly states that legal advice is off topic. Should we accept this question as valid, I think that the description there has to be changed.

This would be an important precedent, though. From then on all law questions would be legal (see what I did there?;). I think this would not be good for this site, because we could be swarmed with a lot of questions which would be much, much less parenting-ish, like divorces.

Hence: let's not accept this question. If anyone has some knowledge about the topic, notify the user on chat and write it. The question, however, should remain closed.

  • I certainly agree the question must be made less legal-ish. However, it can be answered; I must disagree about that. It's local to the US, but as Karl pointed out (in the Q), that's not a problem; and it can be answered in that reference frame certainly. I also like the idea of including other answers from other countries (whatever countries we have people from, I suppose!) – Joe Feb 3 '14 at 19:31
  • Additionally, I don't see how this sets precedent for "everything legal". Topics specifically relevant to parents - like "How do I deal with my child having two homes" - are certainly appropriate, topics like "Where is a good divorce lawyer" are not. – Joe Feb 3 '14 at 19:34
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    @Joe and that's the difference - the first one's parenting, the second is not. Of course not everything everything legal, but marriage-children-adoption legal. – Dariusz Feb 3 '14 at 20:25
  • Right - and I think that things related to daycare (including tax benefits) are appropriate for parenting just like the former. – Joe Feb 3 '14 at 21:07

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