Op-ed: Extend the EITC to more taxpayers
By Bill Crim
First Published Apr 15 2017 03:00PM

As tax season comes to a close, United Way of Salt Lake will be thinking of all the hardworking Utahns served through statewide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites this year. This season, as in years past, around 21,000 low- to moderate-income Utah taxpayers had their taxes prepared free of charge by an IRS certified volunteer.

Volunteers ensured each return was prepared accurately, and that those who qualified were able to access the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. These tax credits allow workers to keep more of what they earn to pay for things like reliable transportation to work, child care, and groceries. To many people’s surprise, it is the workers in our communities we rely on most who rely on these credits — firefighters, home health aides, nursing assistants, elementary school teachers and police and sheriff patrol officers, to name a few. In 2015, $444 million in EITC refunds were put back into the pockets of working Utahns, to be spent in local communities.

But millions of working Americans are shut out from the powerful effects of these credits: young workers 21 to 24 years old, people not raising children in the home and veterans who fought for our country and are finding stable ground at home. In fact, 7.5 million Americans are taxed into poverty every year largely because they access little to no EITC.

Congress can expand this common-sense tax policy for workers not raising children at home by increasing the EITC refund size for this group and lowering the age of eligibility to 21. In Utah, 99,000 working Utahns would benefit from this type of expansion, giving them the financial stability to cover the basics and contribute more to our local economy.

We look forward to working with Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, as well as our congressional delegation, as they consider tax reform to ensure we support our community, and the hard workers who live here, by expanding the EITC in time for next tax season.

Bill Crim is president and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake.