EITC and CTC missing from tax break conversation

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Heather Rude-Turner, reading to her son Isaac, depends on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help support her family. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Amelia Kegan

Nearly two hours. The Senate Finance Committee on July 21 spent nearly two hours talking about expired tax benefits. Many items came up during those two hours: biodiesel, conservation easements, stationary fuel cells, bonus depreciation, how much extending tax credits retroactively actually incentivizes behavior, and the need to make many of these tax credits permanent.

What didn’t come up? The two tax credits that prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States, outside of Social Security. The only two tax credits that specifically benefit low-income working families. The two tax credits that have been proven to get more parents into the workforce, improve test scores among children, and help families move into the middle class.

What tax credits didn’t come up in those two hours? The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

Just like the other tax breaks discussed during the committee’s markup of a bill to extend certain expired tax provisions, Congress must act to prevent key provisions of the EITC and CTC from expiring. Just like some of the other tax breaks discussed during the markup, these credits — with their recent improvements — should be made permanent.

True, these improvements don’t expire until 2017, but senators repeatedly spoke up about how certain credits should become permanent. They talked eloquently about how businesses need certainty. But no one said a peep about making the current EITC and CTC benefits permanent. No one talked about certainty for low-income working families, struggling to put food on the table and making ends meet.

Unlike the other tax credits that were discussed, the EITC and CTC don’t affect foreign pensions. They don’t affect fisheries in the American Samoa. And they don’t reward companies for capital investment.

Many of the tax benefits in the markup bill are good.  But this is about priorities. And as long as we’re talking about prioritizing bonus depreciation for capital investment, then we also should prioritize preventing 16.4 million people, including 7.7 million children, from falling into or deeper into poverty. We should prioritize preventing 50 million Americans from losing some or all of their EITC or CTC. This is what will happen if Congress fails to continue the EITC and CTC improvements.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a real EITC and CTC champion (and Bread for the World Lobby Day award recipient), got called away during the bill’s markup. He planned to introduce an amendment to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent. But with his absence, no other senator raised the subject.

Are you outraged over the silence around the EITC and CTC? Then take a moment to email your senators.

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Amelia Kegan is deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, reading to her son Isaac, depends on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help support her family. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

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