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    Lifting Low Wage Earners Out of Poverty

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    The Earned Income Tax Credit has been an effective anti-poverty tool, yet too many hardworking Californians don’t claim it and leave money on the table.

    According to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, about one-third of LGBT people in California and across the United States live on incomes of less than $24,000 a year. A Queers for Economic Justice report found children in same-sex households have poverty rates twice those of children in heterosexual married couple households.
    Fortunately, both the state and federal government offer tax refunds to 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.

    I fought last year to expand California’s EITC program so that more households could benefit. The income limit is now higher at $22,300 for the 2017 tax year. This is up from $14,100 in the prior year, and self-employed workers are newly eligible. That’s potentially thousands of dollars into the pockets of folks who need it the most.

    When combined with the federal EITC, the cash back can be life-changing. The money could be used to pay bills or to 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 “Wendy,” and she happily told me the extra money will ease her son’s college expenses. That’s what our investment is supposed to do: give a helping hand to the poorest of Californians.

    The key to getting this refund, though, is that you must file a tax return. Non-profits, like United Way and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, can connect people with free tax preparation services. According to the state Franchise Tax Board, the state is well on its way to breaking EITC records this tax season.

    So far, more than 600,000 Californians have already claimed their CalEITC, returning $150 million back to them. 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 in the country. Are you or someone you know missing out? Lack of awareness is our enemy here. Help us to spread the word!

    The tax deadline this year is April 17. You still have a little bit of time to file. For more information, please visit my website (www.assembly.ca.gov/ting). You can learn if you qualify and find the locations of free tax assistance near you, or obtain information on how to file a return yourself.

    There are no easy answers to address economic inequality, but EITC programs are effective in reducing it. The Legislature will continue to look for more ways to help lift Californians out of poverty.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.