My view: Save pro-work, pro-family tax credits Utah families rely on

September 6, 2015
Author: Bill Crim & Scott Ulbrich

This weekend, we celebrate Labor Day, which is described by the federal government as a “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.” When our elected officials return to Washington next week, they have a chance to help those same hardworking families by saving key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

The EITC and CTC are the nation’s strongest tools to promote work and help working families keep more of what they earn to pay for things like child care, utilities, groceries, car repairs, medical bills and school loans. But unless Congress acts, three key provisions of these credits will expire.

These provisions provide modestly higher EITCs for larger families, marriage penalty relief for married couples who claim the EITC and access to the CTC for the lowest-income workers. While unemployment is down, wages are not going up. These vital provisions impact not just family finances, but also economic growth.

In Utah, a family with two children receives an average of $2,323 as a result of the federal EITC alone. Perhaps to many people’s surprise, it is the workers we rely on most in our communities who actually fall into this category — firefighters, home health aides, nursing assistants, elementary school teachers and police and sheriff's patrol officers, to name a few. These hardworking men and women and thousands of others will be impacted if Congress does not make the EITC and CTC provisions permanent.

In 2013, $450 million was brought back to Utah through the EITC and nearly $700 million through the CTC. Studies have shown this money is spent in local communities and helps spur the local economic engines, highly impacting economies of rural communities.

While these provisions will not expire until 2017, tax legislation is less likely to be considered by Congress during the 2016 election year. And waiting until 2017 creates too much risk for the millions of hardworking, low-wage families who rely on these credits to help make ends meet.

Failure to act effectively takes money out of the pockets of working families. Here in Utah, that means more than 115,000 families with 258,000 children will lose all or part of their federal EITC and CTC credits. These families would also face a tax hike averaging $840 per year.

That’s bad for our citizens and bad for our community. Congress should make these tax credits permanent in any tax package it considers this year. These provisions support the values of hard work and strong families that Utahns care about.