Tax Simplification: Clarifying Work, Child, and Education Incentives

Research Report

Tax Simplification: Clarifying Work, Child, and Education Incentives

March 30, 2011

Abstract

The federal income tax code is riddled with complex provisions concerning children. Families with children qualify for and receive substantial assistance, but the provisions are difficult for parents to understand and for the IRS to administer. This article proposes making uniform the definition of child under age 19, regardless of student status for the key child benefits: the earned income tax credit, the dependent exemption, head of household filing status, and the child tax credit. Savings from the proposal could be used to subsidize higher education, particularly for low-income families that would lose assistance from the EITC. The proposal would simplify the tax system, clarify incentives, and set the stage for broader reform.

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