It’s unclear how much ‘unborn dependent’ tax benefit affects Georgia revenue

Georgia offers a tax exemption worth $3,000 per embryo or fetus once fetal cardiac activity has been determined. It results in a tax benefit of about $`170, but the Georgia Department of Revenue is unable to say how much of an impact that has on state revenue. (Natrice Miller/

Georgia offers a tax exemption worth $3,000 per embryo or fetus once fetal cardiac activity has been determined. It results in a tax benefit of about $`170, but the Georgia Department of Revenue is unable to say how much of an impact that has on state revenue. (Natrice Miller/

When the Georgia General Assembly passed its restrictive 2019 abortion law, backers touted what they called “pro-life” benefits, including a provision allowing expectant parents to claim an embryo or fetus as a dependent on their taxes.

But they did so without asking — as they do routinely on tax breaks — how much it would cost the state. And a year after the law took effect, the Department of Revenue can’t answer that question.

The exemption is worth $3,000 per embryo or fetus, as it is for other minor dependents, which results in about a $170 tax benefit.

The state Revenue Department does not require filers to provide proof of a pregnancy up front to take the exemption, as is the case of most other exemptions, although the filer would have to provide it if audited.

Georgia’s law took effect July 20, 2022, a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old decision that guaranteed a nationwide right to abortion. Georgia law bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant.

Officials with the Revenue Department said they are unable to provide any details about the number of filers who claimed an “unborn dependent” or the amount of money that was given under the new exemption.

Guidelines from the department encouraged Georgians to use the “other deductions” line on tax forms to itemize “UNBORNDEP,” but since the directive was not required, state revenue officials said filers have used a variety of terms to indicate their intent to use the unborn dependent exemption.

Revenue Department officials said Georgians who requested extensions to file their 2022 taxes will have until at least Oct. 16 to submit their forms. At some point after that, a spokesman said, the state will analyze how many Georgians took advantage of the benefit and how much it cost the state in lost revenue.

Nick Rider, an accountant with Atlanta-based Mauldin and Jenkins, said his company did not see many filers claiming unborn dependents.

“The knowledge was out there and a lot of people knew about (the exemption), but it wasn’t something we saw come up very often,” he said. “I personally don’t think I filed any returns with that on the return.”

Richard Auxier, a senior policy associate in the Washington-based Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said taxes are “inherently personal,” and Georgia’s law puts accountants in a tough position to ask touchy questions.

“Because we want to help certain people, there are inherently personal questions we have to ask,” he said. “For example, we’ll have to ask, ‘Did you lose any pregnancies last year, because if so you could get $170 maybe?’ And you do want to ask because you want to make sure she gets everything she is entitled to.”

Rider said the accountants at his firm typically ask filers about any new dependents, or any who may no longer be a dependent, but they use their knowledge of the client to determine whether to ask about any unborn dependents.

He said it’s possible families could weigh the pain of a miscarriage with the need for the deduction and not mention it at tax time.

Auxier said Georgia’s approach does not ultimately give meaningful tax relief to expectant parents.

“Very few people are going to be claiming this,” Auxier said. “This only works for you if you have the means and resources to know this is a thing. This is abortion politics; it’s not tax relief for pregnant women.”

State Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican, said he doesn’t think the new exemption will have a big impact on state revenue.

“This just means that a family will get their child tax credit in some cases a year early because of the expected birth,” he said. “We know that they certainly have expenses in that time. It helps support our families in a positive way.”

Hufstetler said the state economy is healthy enough to withstand giving this deduction to Georgians.

“This is the time to do something like this,” he said. “We’re in a strong revenue position to do this and help out families. I don’t think in the long run it’s going to cost the state too much.”

What is and isn’t allowed under the ‘unborn dependent exemption’

Do I need to include proof of pregnancy? No.

If I get pregnant and give birth in the same tax year, can I claim both the unborn dependent exemption and the traditional dependent exemption on that child? No.

If my pregnancy progresses to the point where fetal cardiac activity is detected but I have a miscarriage, can I still claim the exemption? Yes.

If I have multiple pregnancies reach the point of detectable fetal cardiac activity in a tax year, can I claim each pregnancy? Yes.

How much is the unborn dependent exemption? The same as other minor dependents — $3,000 deduction on reported income, which results in about $170 in a tax benefit.