Federal Policy

January 30, 2024

Tax Cuts Hurt Kids

Why Voices Opposes Proposed Income Tax Cuts

Over the past four years, Utah's Legislative Leadership has consistently prioritized tax cuts above the needs of Utah's families. Despite a $400 million tax cut passed last year that benefited the most wealthy Utahns, and now fearmongering about a supposed $130 million budget shortfall, Legislative Leadership is yet again pushing for another $170 million in tax cuts

As the 2024 Legislative Session unfolds, many legislators will claim a need to curb spending and tighten purse strings - that we can’t afford to fully fund social services or any new programs. The question arises: How can we afford $160 million in tax cuts when many crucial needs remain unmet? In a time when working families are struggling to afford groceries, granting more tax cuts to the wealthy is a step in the wrong direction.

Who Benefits from the Proposed Tax Cuts?

The proposed tax cut will help the richest 1% more than anyone. Our analysis shows the proposal will save the bottom 80% of Utah earners between $24 and $107. While the top 1% of Utah earners will save a whopping $2,676. These tax cuts will not provide real help to working families.

Out of the proposed $170 million tax cut, $40 million will go to the top 1% of Utah's wealthiest individuals. In contrast, the bottom 80% will split about $61 million.

The Utah Legislatures 160 Million Tax Cut How much would you get

Note: This image was updated to reflect the changed fiscal note for SB69, increasing the estimate from $160 Million to $170 Million on 2/23/24. 

Utah's Unfair Tax Code

Contrary to the argument that the top 1% pays more in taxes, the reality is that low- and middle-income families bear a higher tax burden. Families making less than $29,900 per year pay 9.8% of their total income in state and local taxes, while the top 1% pays an effective tax rate of only 6.4%.

Why Voices Opposes the Proposed Income Tax Cuts

Voices for Utah Children opposes the proposed tax cuts due to the unmet needs of children and families in Utah. Our income tax should be used to increase funding for education, child care, nutrition, mental health programs, and other services with long-term societal benefits.

The appeal of tax cuts fades when we realize it means losing essential services. Children need us to be their voice, and we need to show up and advocate for their future. It's not just the right thing to do for them; it's a move that benefits all of Utah. Here's why investing in children pays off:

  • Investment in the future: Children are the future, and investing in their well-being leads to positive long-term outcomes. Early childhood interventions improve educational attainment, job prospects, and overall health, benefiting society as a whole. This includes supporting our child care system, which is facing a loss of nearly $600 million in federal support this year.
  • Promoting equality: Programs for children often target low-income families and disadvantaged communities, narrowing the gap in opportunities and promoting a fairer society. Access to quality education, healthcare, and essential services can break the cycle of poverty, creating an even playing field for every child.
  • Stimulating the economy: A healthy, educated population contributes to a stronger economy. Investments in children's programs create a ripple effect, boosting productivity, encouraging innovation, and fostering economic growth in the long run.

We need to hit pause on tax cuts and instead acknowledge that investing in children is the better path to follow. It will lead to a stronger and more prosperous Utah, and those benefits will far outweigh any tax cut currently being considered. 

Published in News & Blog

Every December Congress meets to try to pass all the urgent items they didn't manage to get done the rest of the year. Usually the list includes tax policy changes demanded by one well-heeled special interest or another. This year is no different. At the top of the lobbyists' wish list is reportedly "extending soon-to-expire business tax breaks... affecting research and development costs, investment deductions and debt write-offs."

But what about the tax policy issues directly impacting Congress's youngest constituents? It's true that children don't have fancy lawyers and lobbyists and PACs making big campaign contributions. But they do have a few scrappy nonprofits speaking up for their interests and backed by millions of parents. And at the top of the children's wish list this month is improvements to the federal Child Tax Credit

The federal CTC does a world of good every year for families all over Utah and across the nation.  Well over a third of Utahns qualify for the CTC every year when they file their taxes. That's over half a million households! And the amount of the CTC received by these Utah families exceeds $1.6 billion -- that's billion with a b. Wow! 

But there is a problem with the Child Tax Credit. Tens of thousands of Utah families fail to qualify every year for the full credit of $2,000 per child for a simple reason: The parents work low-wage jobs -- often working long hours -- but their low hourly wages still leave their incomes below the minimum level required under current tax law to qualify for the full credit -- over $29,000 of income for a single parent with two kids, for example. In other words, a single mom working full-time at $12/hour makes too little to qualify for the full CTC under its current rules. 

That means over 150,000 Utah kids every year are left out and left behind -- and these are the very kids who would benefit most from the proven positive impacts of refundable tax credits like the CTC -- including better educational outcomes and higher labor force participation rates years later when they become adults.  

And it gets worse: While most of the kids excluded from the CTC are white, disproportionate numbers of them are from Utah's communities of color, including an estimated 50,000 Latino children, comprising 29% of Utah’s Latino child population, as well as 6,000 Native American children, comprising 75% of Utah’s Native American children. This means that a tax credit that has incredible potential to reduce societal disparities is instead making them worse. 

That's a real shame, because the CTC does a lot to reduce child poverty already. National data from the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure has found that refundable tax credits, including both the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, reduced child poverty from where it would have been -- 18% or one-in-six children -- to 12.5% or one-in-eight children in 2019. That's over 4 million children lifted out of poverty. And if we could make the full CTC available to all the lower-income kids now being left out, that would help an additional 19 million children who need the help most. 

Even if Congress lacks the political consensus to restore the temporary 2021 CTC boost that cut child poverty last year by 36%, there are several more incremental ideas that would help a lot of kids: 

  • Implement a more rapid phase-in of the refundable credit, as proposed by Sen. Mitt Romney in his Family Security Act 2.0 proposal from earlier this year.
  • Make the full credit available without a phase-in for families with children under the age of 6. 
  • Exempt from the phase-in grandparents acting as custodial parents and parents whose disabilities impact their ability to work.
  • Institute a look-back policy that counts previous years' earned income in determining whether a work requirement has been met.
  • Restore the pre-2017 status quo where all children in immigrant families could receive the CTC.

The role of Utah's Congressional delegation in any Child Tax Credit improvements passed this month is expected to be one of the keys to success. After all, it was Utah Senator Mike Lee who demanded that Congress include improvements to the CTC in the 2017 TCJA legislation (though that law also cut off an estimated 1 million immigrant children without Social Security numbers from the credit). And it is Senator Romney who has put far-reaching additional improvements on the table with his Family Security Act proposals. 

If you agree that Congress should act this month to improve the Child Tax Credit, let your Representative and our two Senators hear from you!  Lifting more kids out of poverty would truly be a wonderful holiday gift for Utah's children this year. 

Published in News & Blog