The EITC: The good, the great and the unfortunate

It’s no surprise that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of my favorite topics to talk about (I’ve talked about it here, and here, and here, and pretty much to anyone who will listen). I didn’t have a chance to write about it much in the past year, mostly due to other on-going state and federal tax issues, so I’m glad to be back promoting this great credit at tax time.

Too many taxpayers with low to moderate incomes don’t claim all of the credits they are eligible for at tax time, and today is dedicated to raising awareness about all of the awesome things that the EITC can do! The EITC is a sensible tool for helping Michigan’s families keep working and make ends meet.

During 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported that 766,000 Michigan taxpayers claimed the EITC, and received about $2,489 on average. This put $1.9 billion back into our local economies, as recipients used their credits to pay for things that helped them keep working, such as child care and transportation, as well as groceries, utility bills and paying down debt.

eitc webMichigan also provides an added boost to these residents through a state EITC equal to 6% of the federal credit. In the 2015 tax year (filed in 2016), about 757,000 households raising over 1 million children benefitted from the Michigan EITC. The state credit averaged $145, with families raising at least two children receiving a bigger benefit, and put $109.5 million back into Michigan’s economy. The Michigan credit itself helped pull more than 6,500 households above the poverty line.

That’s the good news, but we could make it much better.

To maximize its benefit, the Michigan EITC should be restored to 20% of the federal credit, where it was before being cut to 6% in 2011. The dollars from an increased state credit would flow right back into local economies and give Michigan businesses a boost. The EITC also has a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of children, whose parents are better able to meet their needs. Research shows that children in working families getting the EITC are more likely to perform better and go further in school and to work and earn more as adults. If the credit had been 20% in 2015, recipients would have seen an average of $337 more.

Unfortunately, the federal tax bill that was signed into law will have a small impact on federal, and therefore state, claimants. While the bill did not make any direct changes to the EITC, the change in the inflation adjustment will erode the federal and state EITC over time. According to modeling by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, in 2019 about 1,400 fewer filers (about 0.4%) will qualify for the credit, resulting in $7 million in fewer federal credits being distributed to the state. By 2027 about 14,500 fewer filers (about 2%) will qualify for the credit, resulting in a loss of $96 million of federal credit value. The same filers who lose their federal EITC will also lose their ability to claim their state EITC, resulting in a loss of additional local economic support.

Also, currently about 1 in 5 Michigan residents who are eligible for the credit do not claim it. A married couple filing jointly with three kids can make up to $59,930 and still qualify for a credit. A single parent raising one child can earn up to $39,617 and receive a credit. Families with children receive a greater credit than those without.

To see if you’re eligible, and to get some free tax preparation help, go to: Do not pay for a rapid-refund product that will cost you more in the long run than if you wait for your tax return to be processed and refund to be paid. And please help spread the word about all the good the EITC does in Michigan and what we can do to improve it.

— Rachel Richards

The Michigan no one is talking about

Data is everywhere. It informs our most basic practices, from what phone we use to what type of plastic makes our water bottles. When we are presented with numbers and minimal context it can feel overwhelming. But this is why we’re here at the League, to help capture the tangible implications of data to create a story.

When the national KIDS COUNT Data Book is released every year, we find out where Michigan stands among our peers. What is harder to see is how Michigan can improve. This is why we have compiled a new report, Enhancing Child Well-Being in Michigan: A Guide to Improving KIDS COUNT Outcomes and Rankings, that showcases not only where we need to improve, but more importantly how, and what that would look like. We delve deeper into the data, beyond rankings, to learn how many children need to be impacted in each Kids Count domain area for Michigan to improve, and what policies can help change that.

infographic - PublisherMichigan ranks in the bottom 10 states for the number of children living in high-poverty areas. Almost one-fifth of our children live in a census tract with at least 30% of its residents living in poverty. Too many Michigan kids are experiencing poverty in their households as well as their neighborhoods. More than 1 in 5 kids in Michigan lives in poverty, ranking the state 34th in the nation and worst in the Midwest.

Poverty has far-reaching effects and impacts outcomes in each of the KIDS COUNT indicators. It has been directly tied to education outcomes, hindering the very thing children need to have upward mobility. With 71% of Michigan’s fourth-grade children not proficient in reading and 71% of eighth-grade children not proficient in math, we cannot afford to ignore an important means towards economic security of our children and their families. When children live in high-poverty areas, the impacts of poverty are effectively doubled. Concentrated poverty puts a burden on families, and isolates them from necessary resources like employment, food stores and government services that could help to lift them from poverty. Independent of families experiencing poverty, neighborhood characteristics have been linked to diminished health and education outcomes, delinquency, extended time in poverty and psychological distress. These effects start once a neighborhood reaches 20% of its residents in poverty.

This factor is increased tenfold for Michigan’s African-American children. Children of color are more likely to attend schools with higher rates of poverty. Over half of African-American children in Michigan are living in concentrated areas of poverty compared to 7% of their White peers. More than 9 out of 10 African-American children are not proficient in fourth-grade reading, compared to only half of their White peers. And 95% of African-American children in eighth grade aren’t proficient in Math, compared to 66% of their White peers. Socioeconomic disparities in schools is the largest predictor of racial gaps in educational success. Schools in high-poverty areas are underfunded, and have fewer resources.

Michigan is 41st in the country for children living in high-poverty areas. To become the best in the nation, we would need to have 350,704 fewer children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, a 92% drop. Michigan would need to reduce children in high-poverty areas by 3% to move up just one place in national rankings.

To improve Michigan’s ranking and reduce high-poverty areas, policymakers and stakeholders must address poverty. We can advocate to improve the standard of living for families by promoting policies that ensure access to services and stronger communities through fully funding revenue sharing. Michigan can better support parents experiencing poverty with improvements to our child care subsidy programs, and by restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to pre-2012 levels.

Small children at a preschool center.

Small children at a preschool center.

Child care costs are higher than the average rent, and this expense relates directly to a parent’s ability to join the workforce and maintain employment. By increasing eligibility and reforming the reimbursement structure, more families will have access to this vital service. This helps families remain in and reenter the workforce, and will increase the number of income tax payers. Beyond child care, the EITC is the best way to aid families in getting out of poverty. In Michigan, the EITC used to be 20% of the federal credit, but in recent years has been reduced to 6%. By restoring the EITC to 20%, we can reduce the number of families and children living in poverty while also improving children’s health and education outcomes.

Whole communities are impacted when we leave families in poverty. To improve our communities we need to help individual families thrive.

These are not just numbers. This is not just data. Poverty is the greatest danger to our children and policymakers must act now address it.

— Harriet McTigue

Happy EITC Awareness Day!

Tax season officially opened on Monday, January 23rd, and Michigan residents should be aware that there are a number of ways the federal and state tax code helps keep more dollars in your pockets and in your local economies. One of the best ways our tax system does this is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is one of the most effective anti-poverty tools we have. This credit rewards working Michigan residents and helps them take steps toward self-sufficiency, and it has long-lasting, positive effects on children.

And EITC Awareness Day today helps ensure that workers with low and moderate incomes who qualify actually know about and receive it. (more…)

We need to narrow Michigan’s income gap

It’s no secret—income inequality exists in Michigan. However, when nearly 1 in 4 kids still live in poverty in the state and when too many Michigan residents must cobble together multiple part-time jobs just to barely make ends meet, income inequality is a problem. And more must be done to lift our most vulnerable residents to help narrow the gap. (more…)

A banner year for better policy

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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It is 2016. A new year with new hopes, and a new set of challenges.

But before we look ahead, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2015 and what you have helped us accomplish. (From here on out, when I say “we” or “our,” know that I am including you, because the League’s work is all thanks to you.) When fighting the good fight, the victories can sometimes be few and far between, so it’s important to celebrate the ones we get, big or small. (more…)

The 2015 roads plan: Helps wealthy and hampers budget

It seems like all we’ve talked about in Michigan for the last four or more years are roads. Despite the annual construction work on seemingly every road we’re taking in the summer, our roads were getting worse. Hitting a pothole had become an understandable excuse for running late to work, a date or family dinner. And we have all heard the one about the pothole so large you could probably swim in it. (more…)

The time is now to protect federal working family credits

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends and all the food and fixings you could hope for. But many Michigan families are still struggling and could soon be making due with close to $1,000 less in their family budgets if Congress doesn’t translate the rhetorical goodwill of the holiday season into actual action to help those in need.

I know I’ve been talking about this issue for several months, and I hope you are all already aware of why the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and low-income portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are so important and why the expiring provisions of these credits should be made permanent. But the need is extremely urgent now. (more…)

Veterans Day: You’ve sacrificed enough

Every year on November 11th, we as a nation thank those who served for the sacrifices they made in protecting our freedom. We honor a great uncle who served during World War II, a parent who fought in Vietnam, or a cousin who just returned from a final tour in Afghanistan. While it is important that we take a day to remember our veterans, it’s equally important to make sure veterans have the resources to return to their lives and provide for their families. (more…)

Two generation policies offer support for parents and kids

On Monday, October 26th, the Michigan League for Public Policy held our annual meeting and public policy forum, “Secure Parents and Successful Kids.” We were joined by more than 250 people from around the state and a host of national and state experts and innovators in the fields of education, economic security and child well-being to discuss a two-generation approach to tackling poverty. (more…)

More needs to be done to address economic disparities for kids and families

As we approach the beginning of the state’s 2016 budget year, the League’s latest report weighs in on whether or not lawmakers have made the investments needed to give all Michigan residents a chance to succeed. It concludes that more needs to be done to ensure that children get a healthy start in life and a high-quality education, and their parents have the skills and resources required to succeed in the workplace.

The report outlines both wins and losses for Michigan children and their families in the 2016 budget, but the greatest concern raised is the ongoing failure to invest in programs that can lift children out of poverty and create the economic security needed to overcome deep and discouraging disparities based on income, race and place. (more…)

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