Ed Davis, Jennifer Thacker: Renewing Tax Credits Vital to Working Families

Huntington Herald-Dispatch - Mounds of receipts, a mad dash to beat the clock - that's what comes to mind for many Americans when you mention April 15. But tax season is about much more than paperwork and refund checks. It's about hard work, livelihoods and futures. Read

For many low-income West Virginia workers, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) make a world of difference at tax time. Together they are the nation's strongest tools to promote work over dependency and help working families escape poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. And our organizations help ensure that they get the full refund they have earned.

In 2015, the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families (WVASF), and its seven regional EITC coalition partners, provided free tax assistance to more than 18,500 individuals at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the state. This service helped those families, living paycheck to paycheck and barely making ends meet, make sure their hard work paid off at tax time.

The United Way's Financial Stability Partnership, the WVASF's Southwest WV EITC Coalition, knows first-hand just how important every penny is toward making ends meet. The partnership's staff has provided free assistance to folks sometimes working two or three low-wage jobs at a time, still struggling to stretch their dollars and pay for the basics like food and gas.

One particular lady comes to mind. Her name is Bambi Curry and for the past several years, she has been one of our many tax clients through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program at our local Goodwill Industries. United Way of the River Cities offers free tax preparation, both federal and state, to low-income tax filers in our community at several partner agency locations. On average, the service saves customers over $250 in preparation and filing fees, which has been a blessing for Bambi. In addition to those savings, VITA tax preparers were able to help Bambi mitigate a tax liability from her janitorial service through additional refund dollars available through the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. She was able to turn a potential $2,700 shortfall into a $1,600 refund. Talk about a real game changer.

For many people like Bambi, the EITC and the CTC have been saving graces. These policies allow working parents, returning veterans, in-home health aides, cashiers and many others to keep more of what they earn. With the money they get back in their refunds, they are able to better afford the essentials like child care and transportation expenses. Simply put, these credits are two of our nation's strongest tools to promote work and help families make ends meet.

But unless Congress acts, millions of hardworking Americans - including 131,000 children in 81,000 families right here in West Virginia - could lose an important piece of their family budgets when critical provisions of the EITC and CTC expire. To put the numbers in perspective, a single mother with two children in Huntington who works full time at $8.75/hour, earning just $17,500/year, would lose $1,565 of her $2,000 CTC.

We can't let this happen. West Virginians can't wait until the clock runs out on our working families. We need to tell Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito to fight for hard-working people by making these critical provisions in the EITC and CTC permanent this year. And while they're at it, they should push lawmakers to fill a glaring hole in the EITC for very low-income working adults and young people currently left out of the program, so these workers no longer are taxed into poverty.

Tax season can be enough of a headache as it is. Let's work together now to ensure it doesn't become even more painful by calling on Congress to do right by families with the EITC and CTC.

Ed Davis is with the United Way of the River Cities' Financial Stability Partnership in Huntington, and Jennifer Thacker is with the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families in Charleston.


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