Countless Georgians will celebrate the role that fathers play in their families this Sunday, on Father’s Day. They’ll reflect on all the hard-work, sacrifice, trials, tribulations and joy found along the path to successful fatherhood. It’s highly unlikely many families will talk much about their tax bills, but given something that’s going on in Congress this year, that might be a relevant topic of conversation. Two key tax credits that help Georgia fathers stay employed and support their families are in serious jeopardy.
About half a million Georgia fathers get a helping hand each year from a pair of federal tax credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – according to a new fact sheet from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. An estimated 494,000 Georgia fathers benefited from these two credits according to 2012 data, the most recent available. The credits are designed to lift working families out of poverty and put their children on a firmer road to success. These Georgia fathers are among the 13 million dads nationwide who used the credits to support their families
The two tax credits combine for what is considered the country’s most successful anti-poverty tool besides Social Security. The credits provide up to a few thousand dollars a year to low-wage workers and their families, with the exact amount determined by family size, marriage status and income. The credits rise with income up to a set threshold, which encourages recipients to stay employed. And because the refund comes in a lump sum once a year, it allows families to afford large expenses that ease their path to the middle class, like night classes or a reliable car to get to work.
The tax credits are an essential helping hand for fathers, a group that faces a difficult economic landscape. Traditional male-dominated industries like manufacturing that pay decent wages are on the decline. Many young men now find themselves stuck in food service and other low-pay professions. That’s a big reason why men struggle to stay in the workforce and why marriage rates continue to plummet among Americans of lower-income.
Pro-work tax credits encourage fathers responsible for family household expenses to stay on the job, since fewer work hours means a smaller tax credit for many workers. And with more gainful, permanent employment comes higher income, which in turn can play a role in solidifying marriages.
The credits enjoy wide support across the ideological spectrum, but some key recession-era improvements are scheduled to expire at the close of 2017. Congress’ best chance to save them is this year, before the 2016 presidential election stalls the potential for legislative action. If the newer parts of the credits are allowed to expire, an estimated 639,000 Georgia families will lose some or all of their benefits.
So take time this Father’s Day to send a note or place a call to your federal representatives to let them know you want Congress to save these pro-work tax credits. It’s the best Father’s Day gift you could give to millions of Georgia families.