Faith leaders from the Circle of Protection walk to a meeting with White House staff.
Photo: Laura Pohl for Bread for the World
December 1, 2014
As leaders of the Circle of Protection, an unprecedentedly broad group of Christian religious leaders, we call on you to include permanent extension of the 2009 improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) in any tax extenders package. As Christians, we are united in believing that God is especially concerned with the plight of those living in poverty – and that a key moral measure of our federal policies is how they treat those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). While those living at the economic margins of society do not have powerful lobbies in Washington, they do have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. It is through this lens that we view the tax extenders package. We are deeply disappointed by reports that Congress would consider making permanent various tax breaks for businesses while ignoring essential tax credits for low-income working families.
The EITC and CTC are two of our country’s most effective anti-poverty programs. In 2012, the two credits combined lifted more than 10 million people out of poverty, including 5.3 million children. Moreover, research shows that a majority of households claiming the credit do so for only two years before moving into a higher income bracket, becoming ineligible for the credit. Allowing the 2009 improvements to expire would push an estimated 16.4 million people, including 7.7 million children, either into or deeper into poverty.
The tax extenders package currently being negotiated would cost over $400 billion, and none of it would be offset. Congress refused to extend emergency unemployment benefits earlier this year because they could not find acceptable offsets. Sequestration, which threatens funding for WIC, low-income housing assistance, international poverty-focused development assistance, and many other anti-poverty programs, remains in law because Congress has not found offsets agreeable to both parties. Yet, when it comes to these business tax breaks, bipartisan agreement comes quickly to extend them without paying for them.
The 2009 refundable tax credit improvements reduced the marriage penalty for the EITC, expanded the EITC for families with three or more children, and allowed families to count earnings below $13,000 towards the CTC. These improvements help millions of working families put food on the table and provide for their children. We strongly believe the tax extenders package must include permanent extension of the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC.
Bread for the World
Catholic Charities USA
Christian Churches Together
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Washington DC Office
National Association of Evangelicals
National Council of Churches
The National Latino Evangelical Coalition
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops