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Author: Maag, Elaine

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Federal and State Income Taxes and Their Role in the Social Safety Net (Research Report)
Elaine Maag

Federal and state income taxes play an important role in providing income support for low-income households by administering refundable tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit (EITC). Using the Urban Institute’s Net Income Change Calculator (NICC), which provides state- and federal-level information on tax and transfer programs in 2008, I calculate the value of TANF and SNAP as well as state and federal income taxes for a single parent working full-time at the minimum wage with two children. In many cases, state and federal tax credits exceed the value of the more traditional safety net programs.

Published: 08/04/15
Availability:   PDF


Most People Receive Refunds at Tax Time (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine MaagElena Ramirez

Taxpayers routinely have too much income tax withheld. Of the 126 million tax returns the IRS processed through April 17, 2015, almost three-quarters resulted in a refund. The average refund was $2,711 with higher average refunds going to the earliest filers.

Published: 06/09/15
Availability:   PDF


Pilot Project to Assess Validation of EITC Eligibility with State Data (Research Report)
Mike PergamitElaine MaagDevlin HansonCaroline RatcliffeSara EdelsteinSarah Minton

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) annually delivers over $60 billion to low-income working families. The Office of Management and Budget identifies the EITC as having the highest improper payment rate among 13 high error programs. We explore whether state SNAP and TANF administrative data can be used by IRS to reduce erroneous payments and target outreach efforts. Too few EITC claimants receive TANF to make the TANF data useful. SNAP data are unlikely to be useful during pre-refund audits, but may be helpful in audit case selection or in flagging erroneous EITC claims for people without custodial children.

Published: 06/04/15
Availability:   PDF


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

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