As Americans filled out their tax forms this year, millions of low- and moderate-income working families benefited from the Earned Income Tax Credit. That's important to note on this April 15, Tax Day, because the EITC not only encourages and rewards work but lifts millions out of poverty.
That combination is the primary reason the EITC has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for decades and why successive presidents have worked to leave their own imprint on this tax credit. President Ford signed it into law, while President Reagan proposed and signed a major EITC expansion. Both presidents named Bush signed EITC increases as well, as did Presidents Clinton and Obama.
Still, there's a glaring hole in the EITC. While the tax credit reduces poverty among families with children by double-digit percentages, as a recent Congressional Research Service report found, it does little or nothing to help low-wage workers who aren't raising minor children. A "childless adult" working full time at the minimum wage—an annual income of just $14,500—earns too much to receive the credit.
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