Levin proposes tax credit plans to aid working families

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, has teamed with Democratic colleagues in the House to sponsor a package of tax-credit bills aimed at helping low- and middle-income families and combating stagnant wages.

They argue the effort is in contrast to Republican-backed tax reform legislation advancing in the chamber that would benefit businesses and wealthier individuals. GOP lawmakers say they want to simplify the tax code and lower rates to give Americans a tax cut and a less-confusing tax filing season.

“We want the spotlight to be very much turned on these basic, middle-class tax cuts that matter so much to the middle class, and to those who want to reach it,” said Levin, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee.

“It’s now 2015, and some of the improvements that we made are going to expire fairly soon.”

The legislation drafted by Levin, as well as Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, would make permanent three types of tax credits for working families with children.

One proposal would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers with no qualifying children, nearly tripling the maximum credit for childless workers to $1,350. Another reform would apply to the Child Tax Credit, worth as much as $1,000 per qualifying child, and index it to inflation.

The final bill would expand the American Opportunity Tax Credit for those who pay college tuition and related fees — worth up to $2,500 per eligible child for four years. The legislation would remove the four-year limit in the current code and allow taxpayers to claim a maximum lifetime amount of $15,000, among other revisions.

Each of the bills has an identical or similar companion in the U.S. Senate.

DeLauro noted that lawmakers recently made the estate tax permanent and indexed to inflation.

“That is a measure that disproportionately benefits the wealthy,” she said. “We ought to be able to do the same thing for working families with the Child Tax Credit. The biggest struggle that people face today is that they’re in jobs that do not pay them enough.”

The Democrats said they expect the tax cuts would be paid for through broader tax reform under discussion in Congress.