As an advocate for tax policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at United Way Worldwide, I’m reminded each day that 7.5 million Americans are taxed into poverty every year largely because they can’t access this tax break.
I recently saw firsthand the importance of getting that federal tax credit when I toured one of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. Last year, thousands of VITA volunteers across the country facilitated $2.2 billion in returns to local communities – – dollars spent to cover child expenses, pay bills, purchase groceries and household necessities, as well as to save for the future. These dollars are made possible largely thanks to the EITC and Child Tax Credit.
The Foster Street Financial Empowerment Center provides qualifying taxpayers free, reliable assistance in filing federal and state tax returns. While there, I spoke with a cafeteria worker at a local university who relies on VITA volunteers to help her with her taxes. The young mom relayed the financial burden of paying for such services. She’s also been using the center’s financial coaching services, and working towards improving her credit. She plans to use this year’s return to offset some of the expenses that come with raising a child.
This story isn’t uncommon at Foster Street. The center’s walls are filled with pictures and testimonials of people that are on the financial road to success.
The EITC is one of the best tools we have for working families to keep their head above water. Workers that aren’t raising children however, like non-custodial parents that still contribute to child expenses, access little to no EITC. Young workers 21-24, trying to gain a stable foothold in the workforce, are entirely ineligible. Congress can expand this common-sense policy by increasing the size of the credit for this group, and lowering the eligibility age to 21.
Today, the 2017 tax season is coming to a close and with it, the knowledge that VITA programs and volunteers around the country are helping millions of hardworking taxpayers keep more of what they’ve earned. Help us continue making a difference by asking your Representative to #expandEITC in time for the next tax season.