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Refundable Tax Credits
Janet Holtzblatt (au)
The U.S. tax code contains many preferences that lower or eliminate the amount of taxes owed, including deductions, exclusions, and tax credits, which can be either refundable or nonrefundable. Refundable tax credits differ from other preferences in a significant way: Whereas other preferences reduce the amount of taxes owed to the government, refundable credits can result in net payments from the government. Specifically, if the amount of a refundable tax credit exceeds a filerńˇ╗s tax liability before that credit is applied, the government pays the excess to that person or business. In the federal budget, the portion of refundable credits that reduces the amount of taxes owed is counted as a reduction in revenues, and the portion that exceeds peopleńˇ╗s tax liabilities is treated as an outlay; the total federal cost is the sum of those two components. In 1975, the first refundable tax credit ńˇţ the earned income tax credit (EITC) ńˇţ took effect. Since then, the number and cost of credits have grown considerably. This report reviews the evolution and federal costs of refundable tax credits, their effects on the economy and the tax system, the administrative challenges in providing subsidies, and the transparency of such credits in the federal budget. Figures and tables. This is a print on demand report.
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