Open Letter to the Public about the Plight of the Working Poor

The Bush Administration has asked the IRS to require low-income working people who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to provide the most exhaustive proof of eligibility ever demanded of any class of taxpayers. Even though the EITC has long had bipartisan support as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs ever--three-quarters of the people who claim it have incomes of $20,000 a year or less--this proposal could undo much of the progress made in helping families escape poverty.

The process for filing for the EITC is very complex. The instruction booklet alone is 54 pages! It is widely acknowledged that many errors made in the filing process are not fraudulent, but are simple mistakes. The IRS says that in 1998, EITC filers who were not entitled to the credit received between $8.5 and $10 billion. In contrast, a Harvard economist's study showed that corporations avoided $54 billion in taxes in 1999 by hiding profits in tax shelters.

As military spending increases and politicians argue for expensive tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the needs of poor people are being ignored. Funding for programs that assist those who Jesus called "the least of these" is being cut. With this EITC proposal, the President is not just ignoring poor people—he is targeting them. Your elected leaders in Washington can stop this, but they need to hear from you.

Please visit the website of Sojourners magazine and learn how you can do more to put America's poor back on the national agenda.


Staff of Sojourners magazine

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This story was published on June 4, 2003.