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Is fetus a person in eyes of IRS?

If the Bush administration considers a fetus a person, claims Andrea Cassman, so should the Internal Revenue Service.

Accordingly, she and her husband, Michael, claimed Jonathan, who is now almost 3 months old, as a dependent on their 1991 federal income tax return.

The IRS said forget it. Now they're in court.

Ms. Cassman claims Jonathan qualified as a child for tax purposes before he was born.

"Jonathan Cassman became the child of the plaintiffs at the time of his conception, which was on or about October 1991," Larry Bishins, the Cassmans' tax attorney, says in court papers.

The Cassmans made the tax claim in an amended return filed April 22.

"We have disallowed the claim because an exemption may not be claimed for an unborn child," Michael Allen, director of the IRS Service Center in Atlanta, wrote the Cassmans on Aug. 18.

John Jones, a Washington, D.C., tax lawyer who was acting head of the Justice Department's tax division during the Kennedy administration, agreed, saying such arguments are "frivolous."

"People claim their dogs as dependents once in a while," Jones said. "The tax code has its own rules for determining eligibility and it's been clear for 75 years that dependency starts with a live birth."

On Sept. 30, the Cassmans took their demand for a refund to U.S. Claims Court in Washington, which handles claims against the government.

Ms. Cassman refused comment. Their demand is not based on political reasons, according to Bishins and Randee Schatz, a Palm Beach lawyer who also is representing the couple.