Earned Income Tax Credit Eligibility and Participation

GAO-02-290R: Published: Dec 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 2002.

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The Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC), which is expected to provide more than $20 billion in refundable tax credits in fiscal year 2002, is intended to offset the burden of the Social Security payroll tax on low-income workers and encourage low-income individuals to work. About 75 percent of the 17.2 million eligible households have claimed the credit. GAO found that the participation rate varied by the number of qualifying children in the household. Participation rates for households with one or two qualifying children were 96 percent and 93 percent respectively. In contrast, the participation rate for households with three or more qualifying children was 62.5 percent. The participation rate for households with no qualifying children was 44.7 percent. Although qualifying households were eligible to claim $22.3 billion in EICs in 1999, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that participating households actually claimed $20.9 billion.

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