US bishop urges Congress to remember low income families in tax debate

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York


A U.S. bishop urged Congressional leaders to remember the plight of low income families as it debates future tax policy. In a recent letter, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York warned that neglecting to renew the Child Tax Credit  – a provision that reduces federal income tax for families – would create 600,000 newly impoverished children in the U.S and plunge some four million minors deeper into poverty.

Bishop Murphy also serves as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge Congress as it debates and decides future tax policy to give priority attention to poor families and their children,” he wrote on Sept. 20.

“Helping families most in need will advance the common good and ultimately contribute to a better society for all of us. Too often the weak and vulnerable are not heard in the tax debate,” Bishop Murphy noted. “Poor children and their families have compelling needs with a priority claim on both our consciences and our economic choices. Yet they often lack powerful allies and influential advocates.”

If Congress lets the Child Tax Credit (CTC) provisions expire, he warned, “600,000 more children will become poor and four million children currently living in poverty will fall into deeper poverty.”

In addition to encouraging the renewal of the CTC, Bishop Murphy also urged the same for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – a federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families to help offset the burden of social security taxes.

“It is equally important to retain current provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit,” he wrote. “This helps families with three or more children and reduces the 'marriage penalty.'”

“In 2009, Congress improved upon the EITC by increasing the credit available to families with three or more children,” the bishop explained.

“Preserving this increase is important because of the economic challenges of raising a larger family in these difficult times,” he added. “Congress also acted to reduce the 'marriage penalty' in the EITC, increasing the amount of the credit for married couples.”

“Couples should never have to pay an economic penalty because they marry,” the prelate underscored.

In his concluding remarks, Bishop Murphy wrote that “these essential programs assist workers and families raising children to provide the necessities of life. Unless Congress acts, these vulnerable workers and their children will be left worse off than they are now.”

“The ethical principles of all Americans lead us to recognize that we have a social and civic responsibility to stand with these families and children. As a matter of justice, their needs have a prior claim that is well reflected in this legislation.”

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