Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Overview



Christine Scott
Specialist in Social Policy

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC) began in 1975 as a temporary program to return a portion of the Social Security tax paid by lower-income taxpayers, and was made permanent in 1978. In the 1990s, the program became a major component of federal efforts to reduce poverty, and is now the largest anti-poverty cash entitlement program. Childless adults in 2009 (the latest year for which data are available) received an average EITC of $259, families with one child received an average EITC of $2,106, families with two children received an average EITC of $3,315, and families with three or more children received an average EITC of $3,452.

A low-income worker must file an annual income tax return to receive the EITC and meet certain requirements for income and age. A tax filer cannot be a dependent of another tax filer and must be a resident of the United States unless overseas because of military duty. The EITC is based on income and whether the tax filer has a qualifying child.

The EITC interacts with several nonrefundable federal tax credits to the extent lower-income workers can utilize the credits to reduce tax liability before the EITC. Income from the credit is not used to determine eligibility or benefits for means tested programs.

Policy issues for the EITC, which reflect either the structure, impact, or administration of the credit, include the work incentive effects of the credit; the marriage penalty for couples filing joint tax returns; the anti-poverty effectiveness of the credit (primarily a family size issue); and potential abuse (i.e., compliance with credit law and regulations).

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA; P.L. 107-116) made several changes to the credit, including simplifying the definition of earned income to reflect only compensation included in gross income; basing the phase-out of the credit on adjusted gross income instead of expanded (or modified) gross income; and eliminating the reduction in the EITC for the alternative minimum tax.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) created the category for families with three or more children, with a credit rate of 45%, for tax years 2009 and 2010 only. The ARRA also increased the phase-in amount for married couples filing joint tax returns so that it is $5,000 higher than for unmarried taxpayers in tax year 2009, and indexed for later tax years.

The changes to the credit made by EGTRRA and ARRA were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-312) extended the EGTRRA and ARRA provisions for two years (through 2012). The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA; P.L. 112-240) made permanent the EGTRRA changes and extended the ARRA changes five years (through tax year 2017).



Date of Report: February 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL31768
Price: $29.95

To Order:


RL31768.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.


Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues



Sean Lowry
Analyst in Public Finance

As communities face a variety of economic challenges, some are looking to local banks and financial institutions for solutions that address the specific development needs of low-income and distressed communities. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide financial products and services, such as mortgage financing for homebuyers and not-for-profit developers, underwriting and risk capital for community facilities; technical assistance; and commercial loans and investments to small, start-up, or expanding businesses. CDFIs include regulated institutions, such as community development banks and credit unions, and nonregulated institutions, such as loan and venture capital funds.

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (the Fund), an agency within the Department of the Treasury, administers several programs that encourage the role of CDFIs, and similar organizations, in community development. Nearly 1,000 financial institutions located throughout all 50 states are eligible for the Fund’s programs to provide financial and technical assistance to meet the needs of businesses, homebuyers, community developers, and investors in distressed communities. In addition, the Fund allocates the New Markets Tax Credit to more than
5,000 eligible investment vehicles in low-income communities (LICs).

This report begins by describing the Fund’s history, current appropriations, and each of its programs. A description of the Fund’s process of certifying certain financial institutions to be eligible for the Fund’s program awards follows. The next section provides an overview of each program’s purpose, use of award proceeds, eligibility criteria, and relevant issues for Congress.

The final section analyzes four policy considerations of congressional interest, regarding the Fund and the effective use of federal resources to promote economic development. First, it analyzes the debate on targeting development assistance toward particular geographic areas or low-income individuals generally. Prior research indicates that geographically targeted assistance, like the Fund’s programs, may increase economic activity in the targeted place or area. However, this increase may be due to a shift in activity from an area not eligible for assistance.

Second, it analyzes the debate over targeting economic development policies toward labor or capital. The Fund’s programs primarily rely on the latter, such as encouraging lending to small businesses, rather than targeting labor, such as wage subsidies. Research indicates the benefits of policies that reduce capital costs in a targeted place may not be passed on to local laborers, in the form of higher wages or increased employment.

Third, it examines whether the Fund plays a unique role in promoting economic development, or if it duplicates, compliments, or competes with the goals and activities of other federal, state, and local programs. Although CDFIs are eligible for other federal assistance programs and other agencies have a similar mission as the Fund, the Fund’s programs have a particular emphasis on encouraging private investment and building the capacity of private financial entities to enhance local economic development

Fourth, it examines assessments of the Fund’s management. Some argue that the Fund’s programs are not managed in an effective manner and are not held to appropriate performance measures. Others argue that the Fund is fulfilling its mission and achieving its performance measures.



Date of Report: January 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: R42770
Price: $29.95

To Order:


R42770.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Income Eligibility and Rent in HUD Rental Assistance Programs: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions



Libby Perl
Specialist in Housing Policy

Maggie McCarty
Specialist in Housing Policy


The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers five main rental assistance programs that subsidize rents for low-income families: the Public Housing program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program, the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program, and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program. Together, these programs serve more than 4 million families and make up well over three-quarters of HUD’s budget. All five programs provide rental assistance in the form of below-market rent available to low-income individuals and families. While the programs vary in some important ways—how assistance is provided, who administers the assistance, whether the assistance is restricted to certain populations—they use many of the same or similar standards when establishing tenants’ income eligibility and their minimum contributions toward rent.

Families are generally eligible for HUD assistance if their incomes are below certain income standards set by HUD. Unlike the poverty measurement used by some other federal benefits programs that target low-income populations, income eligibility for HUD-assisted housing varies by locality and is tied to local area median income. Income, for the purposes of eligibility, is defined as income from all sources earned by all members of the family, with some exclusions (e.g., income earned by minors). Although a family may be eligible for assistance, they are not guaranteed to receive it. Housing assistance programs are not entitlements, thus, due to funding limitations they serve only roughly one in four eligible households. Families wishing to receive assistance are generally placed on waiting lists.

Once a family is determined eligible for HUD assistance and is selected to receive assistance, the rent they pay is generally based on 30% of their adjusted income. Those adjustments include deductions for elderly and disabled families, certain medical costs, and certain child care costs. Families’ incomes, adjusted incomes, and contributions toward rent are typically recertified annually.

The current laws governing both income eligibility and tenant rents were standardized in the early 1980s, although the origins of the current policies date back earlier and are derived from experiences with the public housing program, which was the first federal rental assistance program.

The income and rent policies in the five primary HUD rental assistance programs are also used to some extent by other HUD programs such as the homeless assistance programs and the HOME Investment Partnerships program. Looking at non-HUD housing programs, the Department of Agriculture’s rural rental assistance program largely uses HUD’s income and rent policies, and the Department of Treasury’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program uses some HUD standards, but not all of them. Comparing HUD’s primary rental assistance programs to other federal assistance programs that serve similar populations, HUD’s programs differ in important ways; most notably, other assistance programs devolve more decision-making about income determination and eligibility to state administrators, whereas the HUD policies are largely set by federal statute and regulation.

While the income and rent policies that govern HUD’s five main rental assistance programs are designed to accurately calculate and capture family incomes and financial circumstances, they can also lead to confusion among recipients as well as difficulties for local program administrators. In response to the rather complicated rules, some policymakers have called for changes to the current system. This report provides answers to some of the most common questions about the income and rent policies in federal rental assistance programs, including questions about where these policies came from and how they compare to other federal assistance programs that serve the same or similar purposes or populations. It is intended to help answer commonly asked questions, as well as provide information to policymakers seeking to understand and evaluate proposed changes to the current system.



Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R42734
Price: $29.95

To Order:


R42734.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): A Legal Analysis



David H. Carpenter
Legislative Attorney

In the wake of the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, Congress passed and the President signed into law sweeping reforms of the financial services regulatory system through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), P.L. 111- 203.

Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act is entitled the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFP Act). The CFP Act establishes the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB or Bureau) within the Federal Reserve System (FRS) with rulemaking, enforcement, and supervisory powers over many consumer financial products and services, as well as the entities that sell them. The CFP Act significantly enhances federal consumer protection regulatory authority over nondepository financial institutions, potentially subjecting them to comparable supervisory, examination, and enforcement standards that have been applicable to depository institutions in the past. The act also transfers to the Bureau much of the consumer compliance authority over larger depositories that previously had been held by banking regulators. Additionally, the Bureau acquired the authority to write rules to implement most federal consumer financial protection laws that previously was held by a number of other federal agencies.

Although the powers that the CFPB has at its disposal are largely the same or analogous to those that other federal regulators have held for decades, there is a great deal of uncertainty in how the new agency will exercise these broad and flexible authorities, especially in light of its almost exclusive focus on consumer protection and the novel advancement of federal oversight to nondepository financial institutions.

The CFP Act has proven to be one of the more controversial portions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The 113
th Congress likely will be actively involved in conducting oversight of the implementation of the CFP Act. The 113th Congress also may consider bills that would either eliminate the CFPB altogether or significantly alter the structure of the Bureau by, for example, making the CFPB’s primary funding subject to the traditional appropriations process, converting the CFPB’s leadership structure from a sole directorship to a commission, or allowing the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to overturn CFPB-issued regulations with a simple majority vote, as opposed to the current supermajority vote.

This report provides an overview of the regulatory structure of consumer finance under existing federal law before the Dodd-Frank Act went into effect and examines arguments for modifying the regime in order to more effectively regulate consumer financial markets. It then analyzes how the CFP Act changes that legal structure, with a focus on the Bureau’s organization; the entities and activities that fall (and do not fall) under the Bureau’s supervisory, enforcement, and rulemaking authorities; the Bureau’s general and specific rulemaking powers and procedures; and the Bureau’s funding.



Date of Report: February 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R42572
Price: $29.95

To Order:


R42572.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.


Proposals to Change Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) Premium Structure: Issues for Congress



John J. Topoleski
Analyst in Income Security

This report provides background and analysis of the premiums charged by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which is a government-owned corporation that was created in 1974 to protect the retirement income of participants in private-sector, defined benefit (DB) pension plans. When a company terminates a DB pension plan that does not have enough assets to pay 100% of the promised benefits, PBGC pays, in accordance with statute and up to a maximum yearly dollar amount, the benefits to participants in the terminated plan. In FY2012, 887,000 individuals received $5.5 billion in benefit payments from PBGC. An additional 614,000 workers will receive benefits when they retire.

PBGC consists of two insurance programs: (1) a multiemployer pension program, which protects the benefits of 10.3 million participants in collectively bargained DB pensions in which several employers make contributions, and (2) a larger single-employer pension program, which protects the benefits of 33.4 million participants in DB pensions operated by one employer for its eligible employees. Since FY2002, PBGC has ended each fiscal year with a deficit. The total deficit for the PBGC at the end of FY2012 was $34.4 billion. Most of this deficit is attributable to the single-employer program, which ended FY2012 with a deficit of $29.1 billion. At the end of FY2012, PBGC’s single-employer program reported assets of $83.0 billion and liabilities of $112.1 billion. Most of PBGC’s liabilities are future benefit obligations.

Although PBGC receives no congressional appropriations, its financial condition may be of interest to Congress. If PBGC’s deficit persists, then cuts to benefits or U.S. government financial assistance could be necessary. PBGC is funded by a combination of insurance premiums paid by employers who sponsor DB pension plans, the assets of DB pension plans that are trusteed by PBGC, and income earned on the investment of the trusteed plan assets.

Some policymakers who are concerned by PBGC’s financial position have renewed the calls for changes to the structure of the premiums that PBGC collects from employers. The suggested changes include increasing current premium levels or adding a premium that would better reflect a pension plan’s potential liability to PBGC. Currently, PBGC collects three premiums from DB plan sponsors: (1) an annual flat-rate premium of $42 per participant; (2) an annual variable-rate premium of $9 per $1,000 of underfunding; or (3) a termination premium of $1,250 per plan participant per year for three years for pension plans that terminate under certain conditions. Changes to PBGC’s premium structure were included in the Department of Labor’s FY2012 and FY2013 proposed budgets. In the 112
th Congress, H.Con.Res. 34, the Concurrent Resolution of the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, and H.Con.Res. 112, the Concurrent Resolution of the Budget for Fiscal Year 2013, recognized a need to reform PBGC but did not adopt the President’s budget recommendations. In the 112th Congress, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141) increased the premiums levels but did not change the structure of the premiums that DB plan sponsors pay. Proponents of changes to PBGC’s premium structure argue that the current premium structure does not adequately reflect the risk to PBGC of some underfunded pension plans. Some have proposed that PBGC charge premiums based on the financial health of a DB plan sponsor. They argue that the pension plans of financially healthy plan sponsors are less likely to be terminated and trusteed by PBGC and should not have to pay the same amount in premiums as less financially healthy companies. Although risk-based premiums would better allocate the risk of termination among DB plan sponsors, their implementation would raise additional concerns.


Date of Report: February 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R42521
Price: $29.95

To Order:


R42521.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.