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Chapter 1 provides a history of the EITC, explaining how the concept dates back to Milton Friedman’s idea for a negative income tax, Richard Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan proposal, and Russell Long’s work bonus plan. This chapter traces how, over four decades, a modest work incentive evolved into one of the most important antipoverty programs in the United States. It highlights studies correlating the EITC with positive outcomes for recipient families. The chapter also introduces the Code’s other refundable tax credit for working families – the Child Tax Credit – and distinguishes the two tax credits.
The Introduction explains that the EITC is a largely successful social program, but one that can be improved upon as part of a broader effort to address poverty in the United States. It provides a roadmap for the book, identifying some of the challenges taxpayers face and summarizing why the time is right for a reimagination of the EITC. It outlines potential benefits of the reimagination, such as a more coherent tax policy, a simplified structure for family benefits, a reduction in opportunities for tax return preparer fraud and tax-related identity theft, and a periodic distribution of benefits.
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