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Tax Credits: A Brief Overview Louise Stoney Alliance for Early Childhood Finance Insight Center Tax Webinar April 22, 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Tax Credits: A Brief Overview Louise Stoney Alliance for Early Childhood Finance Insight Center Tax Webinar April 22, 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tax Credits: A Brief Overview Louise Stoney Alliance for Early Childhood Finance Insight Center Tax Webinar April 22, 2008

2 This paper explores the feasibility of using a market intervention--tax credits, linked to a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) -- to help promote and finance higher quality early care and education services.

3 ECE is Essentially Market-Based  300,000+ regulated centers and homes. Most are proprietary  Public agencies providing ECE represent a small fraction – probably less than 6% – of total services  Consumers are the primary funder of ECE (approx $46 billion a year)  A significant percentage public ECE funds are portable certificates A range of ECE providers offer services for a price; consumers choose among them and pay the price.

4 Why use the Tax System? Salience Tax policy essentially defines American values and touches nearly every American. Taxes influence how citizens consume, work, save and invest. Stability Tax credits and deductions are available to all eligible families and typically remain in effect unless they are repealed. In some states a 2/3 majority vote is required to repeal a tax policy. Efficiency Tax credits use an existing administrative infrastructure to administer funds. Equity and Flexibility Tax credits support parent choice and, if well-crafted & linked to quality, could function as a market-based strategy to reinforce a merit good.

5 Tax Credits vs Tax Deductions A tax credit is more valuable to a taxpayer than a tax deduction of the same amount. A tax credit reduces the taxes paid, dollar-for- dollar. A tax deduction lowers taxable income, and is worth more to a taxpayer in a higher tax bracket than to one in a lower tax bracket. Example: for a taxpayer in 35% tax bracket, a $100 tax deduction reduces taxes owed by $35 (35% of the amount spent). But a $100 tax credit reduces taxes owed by $100 (100% of the amount spent).

6 Refundable Tax Credits A credit isn’t worth anything to a taxpayer who owes no tax unless the credit is refundable. Example: a taxpayer who is eligible for a tax credit worth $500 and who owes only $100 in taxes can only claim $100 of the credit. If the same tax credit were refundable, the taxpayer could claim the full $500.

7 Types of Tax Credits Consumer Tax Credits - reduce tax liability of an individual who purchases (consumes) a particular product or service. Business Investment Tax Credits - reduce tax liability of a sole proprietor or corporation to offset cost of investing in the business. Contribution and Community Investment Tax Credits - reduces tax liability of an individual or business that makes contribution/investment in another business. Occupational Tax Credits - reduce tax liability of businesses that employ particular individuals (e.g. former welfare recipients) or in particular areas (e.g. empowerment zones); OR reduces tax liability of taxpayer (employee) who works in a targeted industry.

8 Tax Credits Have Serious Limitations Cash Flow Tax credits often assume taxpayer spends money and then claims credit to reimburse expenses. Refundability Tax credits won’t help low-income families, (who owe little or no taxes) unless the credit is refundable Outreach and Tax Assistance Tax credits that are linked to quality measures will require targeted outreach. Infrastructure Tax credits linked to quality require an infrastructure to track compliance with standards.

9 Tax Credits Have Serious Limitations Lessons from other fields suggest that to be effective, tax policy must be designed to augment and coordinate with – but not replace – existing direct subsidies. Tax credits alone are not likely to produce the results we desire for children.

10 Lessons From Other Fields Quality Assurance - to have a real impact on consumer behavior, tax benefits must be linked to product/service that produces desired results Product Differentiation - tax credits can help create the ‘market pull’ for consumers but there must be an easy way for them to identify which products meet quality standards Strong Industry Support - effective tax benefits are widely marketed by the industry they seek to engage. Administrative Simplicity - credits must be simple to understand and have minimal paperwork Infrastructure - technology to track compliance & an industry-wide system of training and technical assistance for service providers are key to effective implementation

11 Lessons From Other Fields Linkages - Tax credits cannot stand alone; they must be embedded in a package of policies designed to stimulate & sustain quality services. Alternatives for Low-Income Families - Tax credits have little or no value for many low-income families. Alternatives for Non-Profit Providers - Tax credits have little or no value for ECE businesses that do not owe taxes. Engaging the non-profit sector is not only possible but productive Time - To be effective and reach wide-scale use, tax credits are at least a five-year and often a ten-year effort.


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