Lifting Poor Out of Poverty
by Assemblymember Phil Ting
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been an effective anti-poverty tool for more than 40 years since its initial federal enactment in 1975. In the ensuing years, nearly 30 states have enacted their own EITC, including California in 2015. These federal and state tax refunds help improve the lives of working families.
By increasing the income of low wage earners, we raise their quality of life and stimulate the local economy when they spend their refunds. However, too many hard-working Californians don’t claim this credit, effectively leaving money on the table.
As the chair of the state Assembly’s Budget Committee, I fought last year to expand California’s EITC program in our state budget so more households could benefit. The income limit is now higher, at $22,300 for the 2017 tax year, up from $14,100 the previous year; additionally, self-employed workers are now eligible. That’s potentially thousands of dollars into the pockets of folks who need it the most.
All you have to do to receive this refund is file your tax return. Nonprofits, like United Way and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, can connect people with free tax preparation services.
According to the Franchise Tax Board, the state is well on its way to breaking EITC records this tax season. More than 600,000 Californians have already claimed their CalEITC, claiming $150 million.
When combined with the federal EITC, the combined cash back can be life-changing. The money can be used to pay bills or buy new clothes for the kids. It can also be put into a savings account for emergencies, something that families living paycheck to paycheck struggle to accomplish.
I recently met clients taking advantage of tax preparation services at the Chinese Newcomers Service Center. So far, nearly 400 families have taken advantage of its services to earn a total of $54,000 in tax credits.
One client, a single father of a five=year=old daughter, plans to use his refund to send his daughter to summer camp to develop her social skills and make new friends. That’s what our investment is supposed to do, give a helping hand to the poorest of Californians.
It saddens me to see that roughly $2 billion in state and federal EITC money is unclaimed in California every year, the highest of any state. Are you or someone you know missing out? Help us spread the word!
The tax deadline this year is April 17, so time is running out to file. For more information on whether you qualify or if you need assistance in finding a free tax preparer, please visit my website at www.assembly.ca.gov/ting.
There are no easy answers to addressing economic inequality, but EITC programs are effective in reducing it. I commit myself to work in the legislature to continue finding ways to lift Californians out of poverty.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco.