The news hit that Timothy Geithner, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, has had some tax troubles. Specifically, it is being reported that he claimed his children’s sleep-away-camp fees on his dependent care tax forms. As a day camp, we get those forms all summer. While most articles and cable news shows have reported on this without much commentary, there were a few who have added their own spin.
by Clive Crook
My guess had been that Geithner would in the end be given a pass. I had supposed he made an honest mistake, and the bafflement quotient is not to be denied, such is the complexity of the system. (As the Times points out, an aggravating factor in this case was an error over “wrongly claimed expenses for sleep-away camps in calculating his dependent care tax credit”. Is there a correct way to claim such expenses? What are sleep-away camps, by the way? Is there such a thing as sleep-at-home camp, even if only as a tax loophole?)
Interesting that Mr. Crook asks, “What are sleep-away camps, by the way?” This speaks to some of the terminology that we throw around as camp professionals that is not always apparent to everyone. It is hard to understand how he does not know what the word “sleep-away camp” is since it is defined in the words itself.
By Ryan J. Donmoyer
The Treasury secretary-designate didn’t pay some of the back taxes until it was clear he would be nominated for the post, the panel said. He also made other errors such as claiming dependent-care deductions for sending a child to sleep-away camp; only the cost of day-camps is deductible.
At lease this article explains that the problem was that only day camps can be deducted. I was not aware of the distinction. Of course I am not trying to deduct camps of any kind so that is not information I need to know.
By David Espo
The report cites other errors on Geithner’s tax returns, including the use of payments for overnight camps his children attended in computing the dependent care credit for the years 2001, 2004 and 2005.
“The accountant who prepared his 2006 tax return apprised him that payments to overnight camps were not allowable expenses for purposes of the credit but he did not file amended returns at the time to correct the prior years,” it notes.
So the plot thickens. It could be argued that in 2001, 2004, and 2005 Geithner did not know he could not use those DepCare forms for sleep-away-camp. Still does not excuse him amending his taxes if he was indeed told.
by Marie Cocco
It may be morally harder to explain Geithner’s attempt to claim money spent on his children’s sleep-away camps as a child-care expense. The amount involved is a pittance compared with the larger tab for the back Social Security taxes.
It’s the audacity that’s the problem.
Millions of families do without decent child-care for their children while they’re at work. Millions send their kids to untrained and unlicensed daycare providers. Some put older siblings — kids who are ten or twelve, sometimes younger — in charge of younger brothers and sisters. The child-care tax credit is a small and hardly adequate way in which a limited portion of expenses can be recouped, but only if they’re incurred when parents are working or looking for work.
Sleep-away camp sure doesn’t count. It’s a luxury for affluent kids, not a necessity the taxpayers subsidize. Like John Edwards’s expensive haircut and Sarah Palin’s campaign-financed wardrobe, this one reeks of something worse than sloppiness. It’s that sense of entitlement we’ve seen all too often.
While I don’t run a sleep-away or resident camp, I would not say they are all a “luxury for affluent kids.” There are camps of all price ranges, expensive camps offering scholarships, and non-profit camps trying to make sure all kids have a camp experience. There is a different quality of relationships and independence that develops when children go away to camp.
I agree with Marie Cocco’s description of how hard it can be for lower income families to afford child care much less summer camps. I would encourage anyone who thinks that they cannot afford camp to check in with camps and see what scholarships options are. You can also check with the American Camp Association CampParents.org which has a database of camps.