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Report: MA Should Open Earned Income Tax Credit to Working Immigrants

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Monday, May 17, 2021   

BOSTON -- Groups are calling on Massachusetts to open up the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to working residents who pay taxes but may not qualify for a Social Security number.

A new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center pointed out the law requires everyone who works to pay taxes regardless of immigration status, but immigration status bars thousands of Commonwealth residents from accessing a key tax break meant for low-income working families.

Luz Arevalo, senior attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services, said the EITC disparity has existed for decades, and the pandemic put another spotlight on it for many of her clients.

"So many of these workers have the type of job that didn't stop, that didn't cease during the pandemic," Arevalo explained. "The grocery workers, the meatpackers, folks working in bakeries, some of our clients had to continue going to nursing homes."

The report noted in Massachusetts, between 18,000 and 19,000 households miss out on the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps more than 350,000 families make ends meet, solely because they lack a Social Security number, when they would otherwise be eligible.

If even one member of a household has an Income Tax Identification Number, which the IRS provides to immigrants who cannot get a Social Security number, the entire family is excluded from the EITC program.

Massachusetts' state EITC matches 30% of the federal credit, which doesn't accept income-tax ID numbers, but Arevalo noted it doesn't mean the Commonwealth can't have different eligibility requirements.

"I really support more of the Tax ID-blind policy when it comes to figuring out how much people pay in tax but also how much benefit they should get," Arevalo asserted.

States such as California, Colorado, Maryland and New Mexico have already expanded their state earned income-tax credits to residents with either a Social Security or an income tax ID number. Washington state has a similar credit that also includes all resident taxpayers.


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