Sunday, May 7, 2023

Tax Policy in Need of Better, More Inclusive Assumptions: Family Security Act 2.0


By Andy Nielsen


Earlier this year, United States Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) released a framework for his Family Security Act 2.0. As the name indicates, this is the second version of an aggressive redesign of our federal tax code in an attempt to streamline tax benefits to American families. Well, to some families.

The framework/plan (no bill text has been released) makes major changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Much attention has been placed on the former, given the temporary expansions made through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that expired at the end of 2021. Unfortunately, 175,000 Hoosier children were pushed back into poverty or deeper poverty due to the expiration of these important changes. The Senator’s framework makes changes to the CTC that are “fully paid for” by restructuring the EITC and eliminating the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction, and the Head of Household filing status.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides an exceptional analysis and overview of the framework. Do yourself a favor and read it. The analysis provides details on the good (taxpayers’ qualifying credit fully refundable, monthly payments available, etc.) and the bad: “seven million families making less than $50,000 with about 10 million children, would end up worse off under the Romney plan than under current law, with the typical loss exceeding $800 per family.” The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) digs even deeper with their new report on the plan, finding that one in four children will be worse off than under current law. As to not duplicate their analyses, let’s instead focus on some of the assumptions behind the Senator’s plan because, as we know, a model or plan is only as good as its assumptions.


First, the framework commits an all too common mistake: conflating the intended, optimal design of a particular tax credit with that of another. The CTC and EITC are regularly discussed together due to their well-documented and potent ability to fight poverty and improve quality of life for individuals and families. But what are they designed to achieve? The EITC is a wage subsidy, it boosts earnings as workers increase their hours, which encourages work. The fundamental goal of the CTC is and should be to benefit children, and the credit is a tax offset that recognizes raising a child is expensive.

Unfortunately, the Romney framework only permits taxpayers to recoup the full CTC per child with earnings at or above $10,000. This is a work requirement and is incredibly misguided. Under $10,000 in earnings, the framework provides a lower credit. It’s a not-so-subtle way of saying that children from the poorest families are worth less than children from moderate- to high-income families. Also, the $10,000 threshold is indexed for inflation, while the maximum credit itself is not. Over time, the real financial impact erodes, putting long-term benefits of the Family Security Act 2.0 into question. Finally, the plan’s requirement that both children and parents have a Social Security Number is appalling. It treats some American children as second-class citizens.


The framework’s overemphasis on marriage is evidence of the intended goal, which is not actually better tax policy. Marriage is simply not the best or right option for some individuals and children. There is confounding research on how and who marriage benefits, with the best outcome being biological parents cohabiting together without serious conflict. Anything outside of that and the benefits are fuzzy. Proposals that redesign our tax code and ignore the social reality of single heads of household push a mixed narrative of social, emotional, and physical health versus a path toward financial stability. Senator Romney’s elimination of the Head of Household deduction cuts a tax benefit for over 415,000 Hoosier households (2019) – 92% of whom come from households earning $75,000 or less. As ITEP points out, the “main reason some families fare worse under Romney’s plan is its treatment of single parents.”

Who Pays

Half of the plan ($46.5 billion) is paid for through changes to the EITC, redirecting and cutting benefits from households earning less than $60,000 per year. However, absent from this reform is consideration of why families earning $400,000 need a CTC at all. The Senator’s framework does not lower the maximum income or more aggressively phase out the CTC from higher-earning individuals and families. The net effect is that a family earning $25,000 is eligible for the same maximum credit as a family earning $400,000 per year; however, the former will also likely see cuts to their EITC as a way to pay for the higher-earners’ larger credit. Even worse, take a single individual with a four-year-old child living solely on Supplemental Security Income ($841 per month); the Romney framework would provide that family $0, but families earning $400,000 with a four-year-old would receive a $4,200 tax credit.

ITEP provides some very useful data on the distributional impact of these changes. Hoosier families earning between $153,700 and $335,000 would see the largest tax cut, on average $460. However, families earning between $26,000 and $52,300 would see an average tax increase of $90.


Again, no bill text has been released, so other questions on the framework will remain unknown for the time being. The framework assigns the administration of the monthly CTC to the Social Security Administration. Not a bad idea given the agency’s work on other benefit programs, but will the bill author provide for additional federal funding to properly administer? Regardless, the framework provided is misguided and therefore suboptimal. In order to create a stronger, more equitable economy, we can and should design our tax code in a way that provides opportunity and security for all families.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Statement: Indiana organizations laud House passage of Build Back Better Act as huge step forward to improve Hoosiers’ lives.


November 19, 2021

Contact: Emily Weikert Bryant, 317-452-9829,; Jessica Fraser, 260-438-3659, 

Statement attributed to Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry, and Jessica Fraser, Director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families: 

Statement: Indiana organizations laud House passage of Build Back Better Act as huge step forward to improve Hoosiers’ lives

Now, Senate must quickly pass the bill to deliver for Hoosiers

November 19, 2021, Indianapolis—The Indiana Institute for Working Families and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry released the following joint statement in response to the US House of Representatives passage of the Build Back Better Act:

“This is a huge step forward to increasing opportunity, reducing poverty, and shrinking racial inequities for Hoosier children, families, and workers,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. “If enacted, the Build Back Better Act will help people get health coverage, afford stable housing, food, and childcare for their children, and meet other basic needs. We thank Representatives Carson and Mrvan for their support. We urge our Senate delegation to support the bill and help get it quickly over the finish line." 

“Build Back Better would spur a historic reduction in child poverty and a marked decrease in child hunger,” said Jessica Fraser, director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families. “It would provide affordable, quality health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It would expand access to stable, affordable housing at a time when housing instability and homelessness are a reality for far too many in Indiana. And it would strengthen families and help parents stay in the labor force by reducing the cost of child care, expanding free access to universal pre-K, and providing paid family and medical leave. Together, these investments will narrow racial disparities that are rooted in our nation’s long history of racism and discrimination.

“And the bill is fully paid for by provisions designed to make sure corporations and the wealthy pay more of their fair share in taxes. That makes this bill a great deal for Indiana families.

“As the Senate takes up Build Back Better, time is of the essence: If Congress fails to pass BBB by the end of the year, improvements in the Child Tax Credit – which is successfully helping tens of millions of families with kids cover the cost of raising children – will expire. Families will see their credit reduced or eliminated entirely, and payments of up to $300 per child, per month that families are using to meet basic needs will stop after December 15. With costs of everyday essentials rising, Indiana families are counting on Congress to not take away this lifeline.

“We urge our senators to support the Build Back Better Act, which will advance racial and economic justice and improve Hoosiers’ lives. The sooner they pass the Build Back Better Act, the sooner families in our state will benefit from its important investments.”


About Feeding Indiana’s HungryFeeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc. is the statewide association of Feeding America affiliated food banks.  Member food banks include:Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, MerrillvilleFood Bank of Northern Indiana, South BendFood Finders Food Bank, Inc., LafayetteCommunity Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Ft. WayneSecond Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, Inc., MuncieTerre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank, Terre HauteGleaners Food Bank of Indiana, IndianapolisHoosier Hills Food Bank, BloomingtonTri-State Food Bank, Inc., EvansvilleDare to Care Food Bank, Louisville, KYFreestore Foodbank, Cincinnati, OH

About the Indiana Institute for Working FamiliesThe Indiana Institute for Working Families, a program of the Indiana Community Action Association, engages in research and promotes public policy to help more Hoosiers achieve and maintain financial well-being. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Tax Policy to Reduce Poverty: Congress Should Continue Important Investment in Children


By Andy Nielsen 

This post was published as an op-ed on October 21, 2021 in the IndyStar. 

Congress is currently considering the Build Back Better Act that would prevent major changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) from expiring at the end of 2021. The current debate on this sizable piece of legislation focuses on one thing – the price tag. Specifically, how much is Congress willing to spend on transformational social policy?

Many numbers have been thrown around: $3.5 trillion, $2 trillion, $1.5 trillion maximum. It is worth noting that it will cost something – statements that this bill will pay for itself are supported more by politics than economic analysis. However, focusing on a price tag alone is a flawed assumption. This is not a spending decision, it is an investment decision.

Build Back Better addresses fundamental problems in our economy and the value we place on our fellow citizens. The legislation is the offspring of several plans that include policy solutions supported by research and empathy. It appears the question now is whether the risk of adding a fluctuating, undetermined amount of money to the national debt is worth the reward of ensuring everyone in this country has stable housing, enough to eat and that children do not live in deprivation.

The most recent indication is that Congress will fund many of Build Back Better’s provisions over a shorter term to reach consensus and achieve passage of a bill itself. It is imperative that as negotiations continue, investments in children and their futures through the expanded CTC stay intact.

As written, the bill extends the changes made to the CTC in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This includes increasing the amount of the credit for children in some households and the option to receive part of the credit through advance monthly payments. However, Build Back Better goes even further by making the credit permanently refundable, allowing low-income families to capture the full value of the credit. This is extraordinary news for families and households who need it the most.

Some lawmakers have floated the idea of imposing a work requirement on the CTC as a method to means test the credit. While this would reduce the cost, imposing a work requirement pulls the credit away from its primary goal, which is to benefit children.  

Prior to the ARP, the maximum credit per child was $2,000. The credit was incredibly regressive, as taxpayers’ refundable portion was limited to 15 percent of earnings over $2,500, capped at $1,400. Some argued this was to incentivize work, but low-wage workers were held to a higher standard in order to receive the same benefit as their higher-earning counterparts.

For example (in 2018), assume a single father with one five-year-old child worked 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage, equating to $15,080 in total wages. He filed as Head of Household, bringing his taxable income to $0 after the standard deduction. Since he had no taxable income, he had no tax to offset with tax credits, and his calculated refundable credit was $1,887. But since this was capped, he received just $1,400. To receive the full credit, he would have needed to work an additional 24 hours per week, all 52 weeks.

Under previous law, working full time was not enough. You needed to earn more or work even harder to qualify for a benefit intended for your child. This was the tax code’s way of proving that it valued children from higher-income families more than children in less affluent households. This presents a much larger question: what should be the actual goal of the CTC?

The fundamental goal of the CTC is to benefit children. Plain and simple. The credit is an investment in the future productivity that a child will generate for society. It should be fully available to all children in families who actually need it to help offset the costs of child rearing. Under the example above, Build Back Better provides $3,600 because the focus is on the child and not on a misguided work requirement. Congress has a duty to maintain these provisions in a final agreement. If cost is the issue, Congress should be more critical of allowing married households earning $400,000 to redeem a $2,000 CTC per child.

We already know the impact of these changes – reducing childhood poverty in Indiana by 43% and increasing the number of children fully benefiting from the credit by 558,000 (of whom 45 percent are non-White). The debate on the future of these programs will continue, but what should not be up for debate is the importance of investing in children and improving their quality of life. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Tax Policy to Reduce Poverty: Outlook for Temporary Expansions to CTC & EITC


By Andy Nielsen

Congress is currently considering a sizable piece of legislation - the Build Back Better Act. The bill is politically feasible thanks to a wonky federal budget law that allows for budget reconciliation, and would have a transformative effect on individuals, families, and children across the United States. Two provisions that the Indiana Institute for Working Families has been tracking closely are the current expansions to the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). As noted in previous posts (CTC & EITC), these changes are effective for 2021 only, so Congress will need to take action or else these important reforms to our tax code will expire. The good news? The Build Back Better Act steps up to the plate.


The Build Back Better Act extends the changes made to the CTC in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) through 2025. This includes increasing the amount of the credit for children in some households and the option to receive part of the credit through advance monthly payments. However, the Build Back Better Act goes even further by making the credit permanently refundable – you can find a refundability primer on an earlier blog post here – allowing low-income families to capture the full value of the credit. This is extraordinary news for families and households who need it the most.

The bill also eliminates the Social Security Number (SSN) requirement for children, allowing children with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) to be eligible for the credit. This is not as much a change as it is a reversion to previous law before the enactment of the Tax Cut & Jobs Act, which established a SSN requirement. Approximately 11,000 additionalchildren in Indiana would be eligible for the CTC under this change.

Households have until November 15, 2021 to sign up for advance payments. In September, 2.3 million Hoosier children in 1.3 million households received advance payments.


The Build Back Better Act also makes permanent the ARP’s changes to the federal EITC, expanding benefits to childless workers and widening the eligible age range to include younger and older workers. While this is encouraging news, Congress should seriously consider addressing some of the remaining issues such as expanding the credit to all adults, including those with ITINs, and eliminating the marriage penalty.

Outlook / Next Steps:

Last week, the House Committee on the Budget combined the various components of the Build Back Better Act into one single piece of legislation and reported the bill out of committee. This incorporated CTC and EITC expansions included in the House Ways & Means Committee (discussed above). What is next is far from certain. Larger debates on avoiding a government shutdown, bipartisan infrastructure legislation, emergency funding to address the damage from Hurricane Ida, and raising or suspending the debt ceiling complicate the future of the Build Back Better Act. However, federal lawmakers have a duty to clear the deck and deliver, especially when it comes to public policy that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021
Tag :

An Avoidable Crisis: Raise the Debt Limit


By Andy Nielsen

Federal lawmakers are in the process of addressing the United States' statutory borrowing limit – known more commonly as the debt ceiling or debt limit. Years of debate surrounding the amount of debt the federal government has obtained and whether our borrowing demonstrates proper fiscal management does not appear to be changing anytime soon. However, do not confuse what is happening now as fiscal prudence or sound budgeting or even a public policy debate. Because if the focus is on “policy”, this issue would not be an issue. Unfortunately, the current debate is only about politics. If our federal lawmakers are not careful and do not act soon, their inability to raise or suspend the debt ceiling will have serious, negative consequences on the global economy.

In 1917, Congress established a maximum amount of money the federal government may borrow. Since then, Congress and the President – every iteration of Republican and Democratic control – have raised the debt ceiling 98 times. The logic is simple because the policy decisions have already been made. Why? Because the debt limit does not eliminate, reduce, or otherwise minimize the legitimacy for the federal government to make payments required by law or contract. Congress has already agreed to and passed funding for mandatory spending (think Social Security), discretionary spending (think national defense), interest on existing debt (think creditworthiness and being a responsible borrower),  and emergency programs (think almost every dollar related to the government response to COVID-19). Raising the debt limit just allows the United States Department of the Treasury to actually disburse and make those payments.

While the federal government has run in to this problem before, it has never actually defaulted on its obligations or lacked the resources to follow through. That puts the government in a weird spot because it is unclear what the government would actually do. The Treasury Department is currently operating under “extraordinary measures” to prevent default, but Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen indicated that without action, sometime in October (likely 10/18/2021) the Treasury Department’s cash balance “will fall to an insufficient level, and the federal government will be unable to pay its bills.” What could ensue would be nothing less than a financial catastrophe and for no other reason than perceived political gain.  

One of the first, more likely scenarios would be drastic cuts to the funding states receive from the federal government. For perspective, in state fiscal year (FY) 2019 – July 2018 through June 2019 – the federal government provided $13.6 billion to the State of Indiana or nearly 40% as a share of state spending. In FY2020, federal grant payments to Indiana rose to $15.9 billion. Absent raising the debt limit, Indiana could see immediate cuts to:

--School breakfast and lunch programs;
--Grants that help provide special education services in schools;
--Health insurance for low-income Hoosiers, through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program;
--School readiness for children enrolled in Head Start;
--Programs that help Hoosier families and individuals meet their basic needs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),  the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and Housing Choice Vouchers;
--Funding to help address the ongoing opioid epidemic; and
--Investments in airports, highways, and drinking water infrastructure.

These are just a few of the programs and investments at risk, and the order and magnitude of any cuts are unknown. What we do know is that programs will lose funding if the debt limit is not suspended or raised. Simultaneous to funding cuts to states, the pain of default could be immediate on the economy and global financial markets, presenting a real likelihood of recession. According to Moody’s Analytics, “the downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis. That means real GDP would decline almost 4% peak to trough, nearly 6 million jobs would be lost, and the unemployment rate would surge back to close to 9%. Stock prices would be cut almost in one-third at the worst of the selloff, wiping out $15 trillion in household wealth.” Layered with the ongoing global pandemic, this is a difficult situation to imagine.

There is good news. Federal lawmakers still have time to put the economic health of the domestic and international economy above short-term political hedging and wins. Based on the current trajectory, it appears a deal will materialize at the last minute to avoid a cataclysmic, yet completely avoidable, event. The next few weeks will be telling. Let us ask our political leaders to show up and safeguard our economy, national security, fiscal responsibility, and the livelihoods of individuals, families, and children.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Tag :


Blog Archive

Calculate the living wage for 70 different family types in all 92 counties

Powered by Blogger.

- Copyright © Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute -Metrominimalist- Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -