The Bipartisan Idea That Gives a Tax Boost to Childless Workers

By Sam Weber

Last year, more than 27 million American taxpayers received refunds through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from the IRS worth a total of $67 billion.

It’s widely considered one of the most successful anti-poverty initiatives in the country, lifting 6.2 million people out of poverty. To qualify, a recipient has to have “earned income” during the year and is credited with encouraging and rewarding work.

But while the credit can be worth as much as $6,242 for a single parent with three kids, it’s worth very little to those without children.

“In the United States, we are mostly focused on poverty as a child problem,” said Gordon Berlin of MDRC, a social policy research organization. “It has been very hard to build support for working poor who don’t have dependent children.”

Expanding the EITC for childless workers has been a popular bipartisan idea, supported by both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as well as President Barack Obama. But while an expansion of this credit in the federal tax code has not become a reality, in New York a pilot project is underway to test exactly what effect an expanded EITC would have on low-income, childless workers.

Researchers are following about 3,000 New Yorkers who are getting a “Paycheck Plus bonus” of up to $2,000 dollars each year, supplementing the small existing EITC available for childless workers. Researchers will also be tracking a control group that is not receiving the bonus to test exactly what effect the extra money has.