Those who need relief most are getting short end of Mass. tax refund

Originally posted on The Boston Globe.

Re “Refunds could be bigger than expected: Checks triggered by 1980s law are expected to be 13% of taxpayer liability” (Page A1, Sept. 17): It’s true that at a time when rising inflation continues to squeeze household budgets, tax relief would be both welcome and necessary across the Commonwealth. But relief for whom?

Reporter Matt Stout notes that the proportional structure of the tax cap law means that the state’s highest earners will be among those who benefit the most. In fact, nearly 75 percent of the $3 billion in tax relief will be distributed to the top 20 percent of earners. At the same time, families with moderate and low incomes who are feeling the brunt of rising costs of living will see limited or no support. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates that less than 1 percent of this pot will go to the bottom 20 percent of earners — those who make under $31,000 a year. So how do we ensure that hard-working families across the state do not continue to get squeezed out of tax benefits?

The Legislature has a readymade opportunity to provide equitable and permanent tax relief to these households by using a portion of the remaining surplus dollars to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and raise the benefit levels of other targeted tax credits. Notably, the House and Senate already passed these measures unanimously in July in a large economic development bill, which stalled following news of the tax cap law.

With greater clarity now on the cost of the tax cap law and its implications, lawmakers must pass permanent tax relief that ensures that Massachusetts families facing economic challenges do not continue to be overlooked.

Charlotte Bruce


The writer is senior research and policy analyst at Children’s HealthWatch and colead of the statewide Healthy Families EITC Coalition.