What social workers need to know about the earned income tax credit

Soc Work. 2002 Jul;47(3):259-66. doi: 10.1093/sw/47.3.259.


Over the past decade, the federal earned income tax credit (EITC) has become the largest antipoverty program in the United States. For the 2002 tax year, working families with children can receive as much as $4,140 in EITC benefits. Although families may arrange to receive benefits throughout the year (through their paychecks), most receive a lump sum after filing federal income taxes. Research suggests that many families use the credit to purchase big-ticket items, to move, to pay for educational expenses, or to set aside savings. Thus, the credit may promote long-term household development as well as help families with basic expenses. Research also suggests that EITC encourages work among single-parent families, an outcome that is consistent with one goal of welfare reform. Social workers can be involved in outreach efforts that help low-income workers claim EITC benefits and inform them about advance-payment options. Social workers can also support efforts to increase EITC benefits for larger families and link tax refunds to saving programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Advocacy
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Humans
  • Income Tax / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Poverty
  • Public Assistance / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Social Work / methods*
  • United States