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July 2, 2015

Support our Troops on the Home Front

As we get ready to celebrate our national independence and the security that keeps us free, another kind of security comes to mind: financial security. More specifically, the financial security of some of our vets and military families.

Too often, when veterans return home they encounter barriers to putting their valuable skills to work. Many have a hard time landing a good paying job, so they struggle to make ends meet. For about 64,000 working vets and military families in Virginia, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and low-income component of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) gives a much needed boost and enables them to have enough to pay the bills.

When families have more of their money in their pocket, they spend it on basic necessities like putting food on the table, filling up the car with gas, and buying clothes for their kids. So this helps not only these vets and their families but the local economy, too.

But this support for our troops is at risk. When the recession hit, Congress stepped up and strengthened the federal EITC to provide additional help for larger families and for married couples. The CTC was also expanded to include more families struggling to get by. Unless Congress acts again, these enhancements will expire at the end of 2017, hurting about 34,000 vets and military families with children in Virginia.

Our state legislators don’t have to sit on their hands while they wait for Congress to act. They, too, can help veterans – by strengthening the state version of the EITC. The state EITC reduces what workers owe in state income tax. But unlike the federal credit, the state version is not refundable, which means workers who are paid so little that they owe little in state income taxes, leave a lot of their credit on the table. That’s unfair because they also pay property taxes, sales taxes, and other taxes. They need a break too. A good change would be to make the state’s earned income tax credit refundable, just like the federal credit. Then, more working vets and military families could get the full credit amount no matter their state income tax bill.

Our veterans and military families have fought for the independence and security of our nation from the start. Virginia’s elected officials should honor them not only in parades but by extending these key, pro-work tax credits that help keep the home front strong.

–Jeff Connor-Naylor, Program Director

The Commonwealth Institute

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