Saturday, October 25th, 2014

The Obameter

Expand the earned income tax credit

Expand the earned income tax credit for workers without children and taxpayers with more than three children. Equalize threshholds for married filers and head of household filers.

Updates

Past expansions of Earned Income Tax Credit are extended for five more years

In passing a tax bill to forestall the "fiscal cliff” -- the overnight rise of a wide array of taxes combined with deep spending cuts -- lawmakers agreed to extend past expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without children and taxpayers with more than three children, and to eliminate the "marriage penalty” for the same credit.

First, some background. Congress created the tax credit in 1975 to provide low-wage and moderate-wage workers with an incentive to work. But it has many rules and phase-outs. Obama's promise was to allow people to get more money through the tax credit by changing some of those rules.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus bill Obama signed Feb. 17, 2009, contained two rule changes that Obama promised. It increased the credit for people with three or more children, and it increased the credit for married people so they don't face a "marriage penalty" compared with other filers.

However, it did not expand the credit for workers without children. So we rated it a Compromise.

Later, Obama signed legislation on Dec. 17, 2010, to continue these measures for another two years. And the fiscal cliff bill, passed by the House and Senate on Jan. 1, 2013, extended these provisions for five more years. So we're keeping this promise at Compromise.

Sources:

Text of H.R. 8 ("fiscal cliff" bill)

House Republican Conference, summary of H.R. 8 ("fiscal cliff” bill), Jan. 1, 2013

Washington Post, "Wonkbook: Everything you need to know about the fiscal cliff deal," Jan. 1, 2013

Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, issue brief on the marriage penalty, accessed Jan. 3, 2013

Email interview with William McBride, economist with the Tax Foundation, Jan. 3, 2013

Obama expands earned income tax credit for 2009 and 2010


Expanding the earned income tax credit is a somewhat obscure point of tax law, but it's part of President Obama's stated goals to do more for working people.

Congress created the tax credit in 1975 to provide an incentive to work by giving a tax credit for low-wage and moderate-wage workers. But it has many rules and phase-outs. Obama's promise was to allow people to get more money through the tax credit by changing some of those rules.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus bill Obama signed Feb. 17, 2009, contains two rule changes that Obama promised: It increases the credit for people with three or more children, and it increases the credit for married people so they don't face a "marriage penalty" compared with other filers. But it does not expand the credit for workers without children.

Obama has fulfilled two of the three aspects of this promise, so it's a substantial portion of his original pledge, but not everything he said he would do. For now, we're going to rate it Compromise, but we'll be watching future budgets to see if the tax credit is expanded or scaled back, in which case we might need to change our ruling.

Sources:

Thomas, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 , Sec. 1002, Feb. 17, 2009

Tax Policy Center, Taxation and the Family: What is the Earned Income Tax Credit? Dec. 11, 2008