Archive for the ‘Federal’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
October 16th, 2012
By Barbara Sard, 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.
September 19th, 2012
Since the issue of who pays taxes is back in the news this week and getting a lot of attention, we thought we would feature an edited version of a post clearing up this issue from back in August 2011:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about estimates by the Tax Policy Center that about 46 percent of American households paid no federal individual income tax in 2011. Unfortunately, many policymakers, pundits, and media outlets have often misunderstood or misused this figure, incorrectly extrapolating that this means nearly half of Americans don’t pay any taxes.
At a hearing last year, for instance, Senator Charles Grassley ignored the other federal taxes these Americans pay each year, stating, “49 percent of households are paying 100 percent of taxes coming in to the federal government.” While this does make a better sound bite, the 46 percent estimate reflects only federal individual income taxes, and not the considerable amount of other federal taxes—including payroll taxes to fund Medicare and Social Security, excise taxes on gasoline and other items—that these households pay each year. In fact, Citizens for Tax Justice found that when we consider all federal, state, and local taxes, the bottom fifth of households paid on average 17.4 percent of their income in taxes in 2011, while the second-poorest fifth paid 21.2 percent. Although the total effective tax rate does rise for higher earners, the top fifth paid only 30.3 percent and even the top 1 percent of all earners paid only 29 percent.