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Author: Maag, Elaine

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Investing in Work by Reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit (Research Report)
Elaine Maag

The earned income tax credit (EITC) lifts millions of working families out of poverty, but provides little support to workers without children living at home. Scaling back the EITC and implementing a worker credit based on individual earnings and not contingent on having children at home could provide substantial benefits to all low-income workers, ease administration for the IRS, and encourage work for childless individuals and secondary earners. A broadly available $1,500 credit would cost around $870 billion over 10 years; scaled back options are also available.

Published: 05/20/15
Availability:   PDF


Earned Income Tax Credit in the United States (Research Report)
Elaine Maag

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial assistance to low-income working families with children. The credit encourages work for many, though may reduce work or wages for some. Counted in the poverty measure, the EITC would have been credited with lifting 6.5 million people out of poverty in 2012. The credit fails to provide substantial benefits to workers without children, is complicated, has a high erroneous payment rate, and creates substantial marriage penalties for some low- and moderate-income couples. Extending the credit to workers without children or replacing it with an individual worker credit could solve some or all of these criticisms.

Published: 04/09/15
Availability:   PDF


Implications for Changing the Child Tax Credit Refundability Threshold (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine MaagLydia Austin

This Tax Fact explores the child tax credit’s refundability thresholds since its inception. Currently, the CTC is a $1,000-per-child credit that is partially refundable for households earning more than $3,000. This Tax Fact explores the distribution of credits when the refundability threshold rises to $15,000 in 2018, and finds that families in the lowest income quintile would be affected the most.

Published: 07/24/14
Availability:   PDF


Analysis of Specific Tax Provisions in President Obama's FY2015 Budget (Research Report)
Elaine MaagJim NunnsEric ToderRoberton Williams

This document reviews several notable tax proposals in President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 Budget. These include expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC) for workers without qualifying children, expanding the child and dependent care tax credit for families with young children, conforming rules for self-employment contributions act (SECA) taxes for professional service businesses, and changing business taxes to create a reserve to fund long-run revenue-neutral business tax reform.

Published: 06/30/14
Availability:   PDF


State Policy and EITC Expansion for Childless Workers (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine MaagBrian David Moore

President Obama and others have proposed increasing the federal earned income tax credit for workers without qualifying children. That would automatically raise state EITCs in the 23 states that calculate a state-level credit for this group as a percentage of the federal credit.

Published: 03/20/14
Availability:   PDF


Preliminary Analysis of The Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act (Research Report)
Leonard E. BurmanElaine MaagGeorgia IvsinJeff Rohaly

Senator Mike Lee's Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act (S.1616) would significantly expand tax benefits for children, repeal the alternative minimum tax, and repeal the Affordable Care Act surtaxes on earnings and net investment income. To partially offset the cost of these provisions, the plan would consolidate filing statuses and tax brackets and repeal itemized deductions other than those for charitable contributions and home mortgage interest. TPC estimates that the plan would reduce tax revenues by $2.4 trillion over the ten-year budget period, 2014-2023, and remove roughly 12 million tax units from the federal income tax rolls in 2014.

Published: 03/04/14
Availability:   PDF


Child-Related Benefits in the Federal Income Tax (Series/Perspectives on Low-Income Working Families)
Elaine Maag

The federal income tax system provides substantial benefits to families with children. In 2013, the Tax Policy Center estimates that five major child-related tax benefits – the earned income tax credit (EITC), the child tax credit, the child and dependent care tax credit, the dependent exemption, and head of household filing status – will reduce taxes and provide credits totaling $171 billion (roughly $3,400 per family) for families with children. Nearly all families benefit, but low- and middle-income families tend to benefit most. This paper highlights who benefits from each major provision and how much benefit is received.

Published: 01/27/14
Availability:   PDF


The War on Poverty Moves to the Tax Code (Article/Tax Facts)
Leonard E. BurmanElaine Maag

In 1975, the federal income tax code joined the "War on Poverty" with the enactment of the earned income tax credit (EITC). Today, tax credits form some of the largest and most effective anti-poverty programs in the US. In 2012, the Census Bureau estimated that tax credits cut poverty (under a broad measure that includes the effect of programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and the EITC) by 3 percentage points – more than SNAP (1.6 points) and TANF (0.2 points). The tax credits cut child poverty by a whopping 6.7 percentage points.

Published: 01/07/14
Availability:   PDF


How Marginal Tax Rates Affect Families at Various Levels of Poverty (Research Report)
Elaine MaagC. Eugene SteuerleCaleb QuakenbushRitadhi Chakravarti

High marginal tax rates can make moving above poverty very difficult for low-income families. These high tax rates result from increasing direct taxes and decreasing transfer payments. A single parent with two children who increases her wages from poverty-level to 150 percent of poverty-level can face a tax rate between 26.6 percent and over 100 percent, depending on which state she lives in. In addition, her marginal tax rate can vary radically, depending on her earning pattern. This paper shows how sensitive marginal tax rates are to assumptions about state of residence, earning patterns, and program participation.

Published: 12/20/12
Availability: HTML | PDF


State Tax Systems Can Be Important Part of Safety Net  (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine Maag

Taxes and transfers at the state and federal level can have a large impact on the well-being of low-income families. How large a role states play varies, as demonstrated by the Urban Institute’s recently released Net Income Change Calculator (http://nicc.urban.org). In twelve states, state taxes account for over 10 percent of total support and in others, state income taxes provide no support.

Published: 05/21/12
Availability:   PDF

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