Tax Credits for Working Families

Archive for the ‘Federal’ Category

Guest Post: Fighting Poverty at Tax Time through the EITC

December 17th, 2014

This post was written by Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes of the Brookings Institution and originally appeared on their blog here. We are cross-posting with their permission.

With tax season around the corner, thousands of certified volunteer programs across the country are gearing up to offer free tax return preparation services to millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers, military families, people with disabilities and seniors.

In addition to free tax assistance, many of these programs invest in outreach and education efforts to make sure residents in their community know about important tax provisions they may qualify for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. Both of these credits for low-income working families are refundable, meaning that if the credit exceeds the taxes owed, filers can receive the remainder as tax refunds. Together, these two provisions keep millions of workers and their families out of poverty each year.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure suggests that without the EITC and ACTC the nation’s poverty rate would have been 2.9 percentage points higher in 2013. The impact of these credits was even more pronounced for children: together the EITC and ACTC reduced the child poverty rate by 6.4 percentage points.

New state-level estimates show that every state shared in the anti-poverty effects of these credits, from the District of Columbia to Texas, where the credits lifted 1.2 million residents-including over half a million children-out of poverty. (For detailed state data, see this table.)

The key to maximizing the anti-poverty impact of these provisions-as well as the range of other positive effects associated with them-is to make sure eligible workers and their families claim the credits they qualify for at tax time.

As outreach efforts around these important policies and tax preparation services ramp up for this tax season, we’ve updated our profiles of the EITC-eligible population at the state and metro area level to help inform those efforts. With this information, organizations can not only get a sense of the size and makeup of the EITC-eligible population in their community, but they can also tailor their outreach strategies based on information about the types of industries and occupations that tend to employ these workers and the most common languages eligible filers tend to speak.

Visit our EITC Interactive and Resources page to find the full complement of the latest national, state, and metro area data on the EITC-eligible population.

Posted in Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

How Tax Credits for Working Families Would Fare Under the President’s Proposed Budget

April 15th, 2013

By Lauren Pescatore

Our analysis of President Barack Obama’s budget for 2014 released last week  illustrates how challenging it can be to raise tax revenues substantially while protecting low- to middle-income families from tax increases. While certain tax provisions could negatively affect these families, the $3.78 trillion budget primarily targets the wealthy by closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions, and includes permanent improvements to working family tax credits and an increase in funding for community tax assistance in an attempt to mitigate any additional tax burden on low- to middle-income households.

The President’s offer includes a proposal to move from the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a “chained CPI.” We blogged about what this switch would mean for tax credits for working families back in December, when a chained CPI was being considered as part of fiscal cliff negotiations.

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Posted in Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

A Tale of Two Budgets

March 20th, 2013

Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees each released budget plans for fiscal year 2014. Both chambers are expected to vote on these plans before next week’s district work period.

These two dramatically different budget proposals are purely political documents, with no chance of being combined into one official budget resolution passed by both houses of Congress that would have any effect on legislation. Still, the political theater does help lay out what might happen in other legislation this year. So here are the implications of the two proposals for tax credits for working families.

The House Budget Committee plan and associated documents include no specific proposals on income tax credits or deductions. However, a number of provisions imply that the budget plan implicitly includes changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. (It is less clear whether it also contemplates changes to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.)

  • The plan would significantly reduce both the top income tax rate and the corporate tax rate, as well as cutting other tax rates, and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, all without contributing to the deficit. In order to offset the lost revenue, it would generate new revenues from eliminating or reducing “tax expenditures,” (income exclusions, preferential rates, deductions and credits.) While the budget doesn’t specify which of these expenditures would be cut, (deferring instead to the tax reform process currently underway in the Ways and Means Committee), it appears likely that the EITC and the Child Tax Credit would be targeted as they are two of the major tax expenditures, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Thus, the Committee’s proposal appears to contemplate changes to the credits. Indeed, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, nearly every tax expenditure would have to be eliminated in order to pay for the new tax cuts proposed in the budget.
  • The budget plan specifically refers to recent research by Gene Steuerle on marginal tax rates, which was presented at a Ways and Means committee hearing last year. That research looks at the combined effect across several programs of the phase-out for eligibility as income rises including the EITC, that together create a very high implicit marginal tax rate (meaning that for every new dollar earned, the worker loses almost as much from various benefit programs and tax provisions.) While Mr. Steuerle suggested that Congress minimize this problem by extending the phase-out period of these programs, the House Budget Committee would instead resolve this high marginal tax rate by both eliminating benefit subsidies under the new health law and reducing access to SNAP (formerly food stamps.) This suggests that the plan’s creators would also favor reducing access to the EITC to help solve this problem.
  • The plan also calls for caps on mandatory spending, including tax credits, which would almost certainly reduce the amount of money available for working family tax credits.
  • Finally, on the process side, the budget proposal calls for setting up a fast track budget process called reconciliation, and includes reconciliation instructions to eight committees (not specified.) If Ways and Means is one of the eight committees to receive instructions, that would make it easier to get controversial tax provisions such as cuts to working family tax credits approved by Congress.

The Senate Budget Committee plan is much more specific. It supports the refundable tax credits, and would make permanent the expansions of the EITC and Child Care Credit that were created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and recently extended until 2017 (see page 53.)

It also calls for nearly a trillion dollars in new revenues, which are intended to come from wealthy taxpayers and corporations. Like the House, the Senate plan authorizes reconciliation, which, if the House and Senate could agree on a single Budget Resolution, would ensure that the tax provisions and other aspects of the budget could pass with only 51 votes in the Senate. Theoretically, if there was a budget resolution, the reconciliation process would require the Ways and Means Committee in the House, and the Finance Committee in the Senate to find a specific dollar amount of new revenues in any way they saw fit, including by limiting these tax credits. The reconciliation process has also been used to expedite tax cut legislation.

While there will undoubtedly be no final budget resolution, and therefore no reconciliation process this year, other major battles could create political forces that might also enable major tax changes to move through Congress. The most likely scenario for another grand fiscal confrontation that could provide an opportunity to force through either the House or Senate approach to tax credits is the need to raise the debt ceiling. (The debt ceiling waiver expires May 18, but apparently for all practical purposes the waiver will operate much as legislation lifting the debt ceiling would have done. That means that Treasury can buy some additional time by moving around necessary payments, and Congress may really have until sometime in July to act.)

Two other possible triggers for a grand fiscal deal are looking less likely. At the moment, it looks like Congress is willing to live with sequestration. As the consequences become more visible, however, this could change, setting up discussions about alternate ways to reach the same level of deficit reduction that could include tax changes. Congress and the Administration have also agreed in principle to complete funding for the rest of this fiscal year (running from April through September), and both the House and Senate are expected to vote on it this week. There remains a possibility, though unlikely, that either the House or Senate could enact amendments that would bog the process down, and tax changes could result from efforts to resolve it.

Posted in Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

House Ways and Means Tax Reform Working Groups to Review Current Federal Income Tax Law

March 18th, 2013

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) recently announced the formation of eleven separate Tax Reform Working Groups that will together review current federal income tax law. These groups will each be led by one Republican and one Democratic member and will discuss current policies in their designated issue areas and compile feedback from stakeholders, academics, think tanks, practitioners, the general public, and colleagues in the House of Representatives. The Joint Committee on Taxation will then prepare a report for the full Committee on Monday, May 6 (extended from the original date of April 15), summarizing the information gathered by each working group. The working groups most likely to consider tax credits for working families are Education and Family Benefits, and Income and Tax Distribution.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee launched a new email address for submitting comments to the Working Groups. This provides a great opportunity for stakeholders, advocacy groups and any members of the general public interested in promoting tax credits for working families to make their views heard.

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Posted in Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

Guest Commentary: Paid-prep rules encounter a bump in the road

January 29th, 2013

By Sean Noble, Director of Public Policy & Research at the National Community Tax Coalition

(A version of this commentary also appears on WorkForward, the blog of the National Community Tax Coalition.)

The movement toward common-sense regulation of paid tax preparers has hit a bump, but hopefully not for long.

A federal judge has ruled against the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts at better-safeguarding the financial security of the tens of millions of taxpayers who turn to commercial preparers each year. However, NCTC and the VITA field strongly urge federal policymakers to take the next wisest, appropriate steps necessary to ensure taxpayers don’t lose ground in the pursuit of accurate and high-quality services – steps that include the possibility of an appeal.

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Posted in Family Tax Preparation and Filing, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

Guest Commentary: New State Data Show EITC’s Widespread Anti-Poverty Impact

January 10th, 2013

by Jane Williams and Elizabeth Kneebone of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution

Packed into the new year’s fiscal cliff deal was some good news for working families, including a provision that  extends the 2009 Recovery Act expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) by five years—targeted expansions that strengthened these credits for working families in response to the Great Recession and weak economic recovery that followed. Together the EITC and refundable portion of the CTC (including the 2009 improvements) lowered the poverty rate by 2.8 percentage points in 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The impact on child poverty was even greater: under the SPM definition, the child poverty rate would have been 6.3 percentage points higher without these credits.

The SPM provides a more nuanced measure of poverty across the country, accounting for things the official poverty measure does not—like after-tax income, regional differences in housing costs, and the impact of government policies like the EITC and CTC. But until recently, data on the effects of particular anti-poverty programs were only available at the national level. Thanks to public-use files recently released by the Census Bureau, we can now estimate the extent to which the EITC and CTC have alleviated poverty in individual states throughout the country.

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Posted in Benefits of Family Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

The Fiscal Cliff and Working Family Tax Credits

January 2nd, 2013

While the national media covered every twist and turn in the fiscal cliff negotiations, little attention was paid to the provisions of the law affecting tax credits for working families. So here’s the bottom line…

As anticipated, the deal makes permanent the changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) that were first implemented in the “Bush tax cuts” of 2001 and 2003 tax bills.

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Posted in Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

How Many Children in Each State Benefit from the EITC

December 20th, 2012

The Brookings Institution has just provided us with the numbers of children in each state that live in households that benefit from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Their very helpful EITC interactive website provides information about households that claim the federal EITC, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

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Posted in Benefits of Family Tax Credits, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

New Evidence that Refundable Credits Lift People Out of Poverty

November 14th, 2012

A report released today by the Census Bureau on the 2011 Supplemental Poverty Measure shows what a significant difference the refundable portions of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit make for the working families who receive them, particularly their children.

As calculated by the 2011 Supplemental Poverty Measure, if these credits were not refundable, the percentage of all people in poverty would rise to 18.9 percent from 16.1 percent; the percentage of children in poverty would rise to 24.4 percent from 18.1 percent; and the percentage of non-elderly adults in poverty would rise to 17.7 from 15.5.  (Note that these calculations are based on Table 5a, page 14; the Poverty Statistics Branch of the Census Bureau has confirmed that these numbers only include the refundable portion of these two federal tax credits. Despite the somewhat misleading description, the table offers percentages, not actual numbers of people affected.)

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Posted in Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Federal, Recent Updates | Comments Off

Guest Commentary: The Need to Rebalance Federal Housing Policy: Time for a Renters’ Tax Credit

October 16th, 2012

By , Vice President for Housing Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (This commentary also appears on Off the Charts, the blog of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

Note: While there are Property Tax Circuit Breakers in place in some states, there are no comparable tax proposals that would help renters at the federal level. This proposal would provide such federal support for renters across the nation.

The nation’s housing policy is out of whack.  We’ve focused for decades on policies to increase homeownership, and most federal housing dollars benefit families with relatively little need for assistance.  When you count both direct spending and tax subsidies, about 75 percent of federal housing dollars support homeownership – though only two-thirds of households own homes.  Overall, more than half of federal spending on housing benefits households with incomes above $100,000 (see chart).

Meanwhile, the nation’s lowest-income renters are far likelier to struggle to pay for housing– and their affordability problems are growing.

It’s time to rebalance the nation’s housing spending to help these low-income households.

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Posted in Federal, Property Tax Circuit Breaker, Recent Updates | Comments Off

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