Lee, Skinner tout free tax prep program, EITC

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, were in West Oakland today to tout a free tax assistance program that helps working poor people take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, to the tune of many millions of dollars in the East Bay.

Barbara Lee 1-28-2011The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” tax assistance program – a project led by the United Way of the Bay Area in cooperation with more than 250 public and private partners, now in its ninth year – provides free tax return preparation help to families that earned less than $49,000 in 2010; it helped 52,000 taxpayers last year.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, created in 1975, is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families, conceived in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for it.

At a news conference in the People’s Federal Credit Union at Seventh Street and Mandela Parkway, Lee said the EITC lets working families keep more of their money, which ultimately benefits the entire community in which that money is spent. And as social services continue to be scaled back, she said, such families need all the help they can get.

“We have millions that’s being left on the table” while “we have so many people who are struggling … and there could be cash in their pockets right now,” Skinner said.

The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” program last year operated 211 sites in seven Bay Area counties, with 3,949 volunteers helping to prepare 51,963 tax returns that brought $57.2 million in total refunds, including almost $18.3 from the EITC.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    The Earned Income Tax Credit is a transfer of wealth from those of us who pay taxes to those who don’t.

    Isn’t socialism wonderful?

  • John W

    I don’t have a strong opinion for or against the EITC. I think everybody with any income should have skin in the game and pay something, even if as little as $10. However, I would note that the EITC concept, once known as “negative income tax,” was formulated and championed by that raging socialist, Milton Friedman. As for it being a transfer of wealth from those who do pay taxes to those who don’t, it might be more accurate to say that, like other deficit expenditures — both direct spending and “tax expenditures,” it is a transfer of wealth to today’s taxpayers and non-taxpayers from those who will be paying taxes in the future. Other than progressive tax rates, the single biggest redistribution of wealth welfare program we have in the indidividual tax code is the home mortage interest deduction.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Dig! A program that’s been around for a generation and Dr Lee has to talk it up. Those Deserving Poor folks ought to thank (fill in the blank) for Dr Lee and her faithful companion “Tonto” Skinner who look after them as if they were little children. Lefties can be so sweet!

  • Elwood

    RR, you BAD! :>)

  • Kelly

    Actually the earned income tax credit is for people who work and pay taxes. And for decades this program has helped people who are trying to make ends meet, unlike the many, many, many tax incentives that do not transfer wealth, but increase wealth for the top 2% of wage earners. If the earned income tax credit is socialism, then I welcome it.

  • Elwood

    Re: #5

    Call it what you like. If socialism is what you dig maybe you should move to Sweden.

    It’s still a transfer of wealth from those who pay taxes to the beloved indigent who don’t.

    Why else do you think Rep. Bobby Lee (Communist, Berkeley) and Ass. Nancy Stupid (Communist, Berkeley) are pimping it?

  • John W

    Re #5 Kelly

    Just to clarify. Yes, the EITC is for people who work and, in theory, pay income taxes. However, because it is a refundable tax credit and benefits low income earners whose income tax liability (before the credit) is less than the credit itself, they end up receiving money back from the government. Of course, they still pay 15.3% payroll taxes (7.65% directly and 7.65% indirectly through the employer share), which is .3% more than hedge fund managers pay on the millions they receive as their share of capital gains on their clients’ investments (not capital gains on their own investments with their own money).

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    A few candid reactions to posts 1 and 3:
    Outraged White liberal: “I am disgusted that Tea Party-racist-gun lobby-unrestrained capitalists enjoy a free run on this blog.” (Aside: “What the @#$#! I told you to book Chez Panisse a week ago! Is this the thanks I get for hiring you?” Next time, my interns will be from Pepperdine!)
    Longtime supporter of Dr Lee: “Well, that’s the way the cracker crumbles.”

  • Kelly

    Re: #6

    Would you rather them pimp the tax incentives for wealthy people who pay far less taxes? I draw your attention to a recently released report on the $400 Billion Federal Asset Building budget by CFED and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Here is the most disturbing finding “…of the nearly $400 billion spent by the federal government in 2009, most funds went toward tax breaks. However, more than half of these breaks went to the wealthiest five percent of taxpayers, who averaged a net benefit of $95,000 each. On the other hand, less than 5% of the federal expenditures benefitted the Americans earning the least. The bottom 60% of taxpayers averaged just $5 each.”

    Sounds kind of like the opposite of socialism to me. And maybe that is just what you are about…rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I just hope you are never poor.

    And Re: #7

    You are right about the often ZERO tax liability of EITC recipients so they are paid by a refundable credit as well as refunded their withholding, but isn’t true that their tax liability is reduced to so little because they have a small income and a large number of exemptions? Sounds to me like they could use the credit that “pays you anyway” like the EITC! And we know that the majority of households that do not have enough money to pay for their basic needs have at least one worker in their household. These people are working and they are trying. The tax code can give them a break…a small, tiny drop in the bucket of a break compared to that which we hand out in truck loads to wealthy people.

  • Elwood

    “I just hope you are never poor.”

    I’ve been poor. I didn’t like it so I did something about it. I worked hard, saved my money and invested it well.

    Now I’m not poor any more. Which is much better than being poor.

    However my heart is not so filled with the milk of human kindness that I feel like giving all my money to the poor in spite of the exhortations of Lee, Skinner and their fellow travelers.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    “Ain’t no use me workin’ so hard, I got a woman in the rich folks’ yard. When they kill a chicken, she sends me the head, she thinks I’m a-workin’ when I’m a-restin’ in bed”–Woody Guthrie
    No. 9: Sounds like the rich and successful are as villainous as Tolstoy’s generals—the higher the rank, the greater the crimes.