Rep. Mike Coffman Calls for an Expanded EITC to Help Childless Workers ‘Realize Their Dreams’

By Lauren Pescatore

Several weeks ago, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) joined the ranks of policymakers on both sides of the aisle with plans to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for workers without dependent children. Rep. Coffman’s Enhancing Advancement, Reducing Noncompliance and Improving Trust (EARN IT) Act would increase the maximum EITC for filers without dependent children and lower the eligibility age from 25 to 21.

“The EITC is very valuable for workers with families,” Rep. Coffman said in a recent interview with Tax Credits for Working Families. “My bill recognizes those who are left out under current EITC rules […] These young, single, childless workers are often the people just getting started in life, and this might be just the boost they need to enter the work force, really begin to build up their personal prosperity and begin to realize their dreams – like saving for a house, or getting married, or repaying debt.”

Rep. Coffman makes a great point. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, workers without dependent children comprise the only group currently taxed into or deeper into poverty by our federal tax system, largely because they owe a significant amount in payroll and income taxes but are excluded from receiving the EITC or are only eligible for a very small credit. Our latest infographic illustrates the impact an expanded EITC could have for these workers.

However, certain provisions in Coffman’s bill have drawn criticism from advocates for low-income workers, who say the legislation would make it more difficult for those with children to file for the EITC and other tax credits. In order to claim a child for purposes of the EITC, the bill requires that a taxpayer submit proof – such as letters or affidavits – that they lived in the same residence as the child for the taxable year. In addition, the bill requires taxpayers to have Social Security Numbers in order to file for the Child Tax Credit and increases the amount of time a taxpayer must wait after receiving an improper EITC payment before filing for the credit again.

Rep. Coffman defends these provisions, pointing to a Joint Committee on Taxation report that shows they would save the federal government $3.7 billion over 10 years, essentially paying for the cost of the EITC expansion for childless workers. Advocates argue that these provisions would do more harm than good, and point to President Obama’s proposal to cut tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals in order to fund an increased EITC for childless workers as a better alternative.

Despite disagreement over a funding source, strengthening the EITC for childless workers has garnered significant bipartisan support throughout the past two years. “I think there are two reasons for the appeal to conservatives,” Rep. Coffman told Tax Credits for Working Families. “First, it’s consistent with our commitment to opportunity and personal responsibility. It’s going to help people who need a leg up, but they have to be willing participants. It encourages work – the more you earn, the more you can claim.”