A proposed Missouri “mega-sales tax” would affect private school tuition and would unfairly burden parents who send their children to Catholic schools, the Missouri Catholic Conference has warned.
The services taxed under the proposal by the Missouri General Assembly include educational services provided by K-12 private and parochial schools. College tuition is explicitly exempted and no K-12 school tax is imposed on public school parents, the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) reported in a Feb. 11 statement.
The present proposed tax rate of 5.11 percent may be adjusted upward, the MCC added, because once the principle of tuition taxation is conceded there is nothing preventing its increase. An eight percent tax on tuition of $3,000 would cost parents an additional $240 in taxes.
College tuition is reportedly exempted from the tax because it is considered an investment.
The MCC argued that K-12 private school tuition is also an investment, not “discretionary” spending like buying a movie ticket or a magazine. It charged that the tax discriminates against private school parents, especially those who feel that their child will not receive an education in “a failing public school.”
“By singling out private school parents for taxing while exempting all other school parents, the mega-sales tax penalizes parents who choose private or parochial schools,” the MCC commented.
Countering the argument that private school children’s parents will be better off even with the sales tax because they will no longer pay income taxes, the MCC noted that poor parents do not pay income tax at present. It also claimed that it was unjust to tax private school parents when other school parents are not.
Further, tax to tuition could encourage parents to remove their children from private schools and send them to public school, where the average cost to the taxpayer is $9,300 per child per year.
“The state of Missouri should promote schools that successfully educate children, not tax them,” the MCC wrote, noting the better graduation and college admission rates of Catholic school students.
Saying that at some level taxation begins to coerce parents to choose public schools, the MCC claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such coercive laws unconstitutional. The Conference also noted Catholic teaching that parents’ right to choose a school for their children is “fundamental.”
“The mega-sales tax should be defeated,” the MCC statement said.
Supporters of the bill argue that instituting the tax would help the state better project its income and spread the tax burden more evenly amongst citizens.
One of the bills, SJR 29, has already passed a state Senate committee and was scheduled to be debated as early as Tuesday.