The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal welfare payment, applied for on the 1040 or 1040A tax return and administered by the Internal Revenue Service.
Traditional welfare payments are administered and distributed by government welfare agencies on a state level, with applicants required to submit to the appropriate agency Independent Documentation to support their qualification for the benefit.
Individuals applying for the EITC on self-filed tax returns simply need to enter numbers on their tax form and include a Form EIC to identify the dependent children that qualify them for the credit if applicable. No independent documentation is required to be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service with the filing of the tax return.
It has been suggested that as many as 1/3 of all EITC claims are erroneous. And the refundable portion of the EITC is one of the main sources of tax fraud, costing the government billions of dollars each year.
If an EITC applicant uses a Paid Tax professional to prepare their tax return the government requires, under threat of a $500 penalty, that the paid preparer undertake excessive due diligence in verifying the applicant’s qualification for the benefit and prepare an additional tax form identifying and certifying compliance with the excessive due diligence requirement.
A paid tax preparer charges a fee based on the time and work involved in preparing a tax return. A tax return that includes an application for the EITC requires additional time and work, legally required by legislation and government regulation. So, the preparation of a return including an EITC claim costs more, or should cost more, than a non-EITC tax return. By definition, EITC claimants are low-income individuals who cannot necessary afford additional fees. Yet the government forces them to pay a fee to apply for a federal welfare payment.
Some tax professionals, realizing the inappropriateness of this situation, do not charge clients claiming the EITC the full and proper fee to which they are legally, ethically and morally entitled for the additional work they are required to do by the government.
So, in effect, either the taxpayer applying for an EITC or the tax professional preparing the return with an EITC claim is penalized.
Here are some solutions to these serious problems.
(1) Remove the Earned Income Tax Credit from the US Tax Code and require individuals to apply for and receive this benefit via traditional welfare channels.
(2) Require tax filers claiming the EITC to use the services of an IRS-sponsored VITA center to prepare their return, where independent documentation of qualification would be required to be provided to the VITA preparer or file their return electronically directly to the IRS via the IRS website, with independent documentation required to be included with the submission of the return.
(3) Forbid paid tax preparers to charge an additional fee for claiming the EITC on a tax return and have the IRS, using the PTIN filing system, pay tax professionals a pre-determined fee for each return they prepared with an EITC claim within 60 days of April 15th and October 15th.
Obviously, solution #1 is the best and easiest answer.
So, what do you think?