Earned Income Tax Credit: A Vital Financial Tool for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Photograph of Tax Forms and Refund CheckEach year, 6.6 million people, half of them children, are lifted out of poverty with help from the Earned Income Tax Credit[1] (EITC). As a proven anti-poverty strategy, the EITC can help survivors of domestic violence attain financial independence. Introduced by Congress more than 35 years ago, this Federal tax credit program provides low- to moderate-income workers and their families a tax refund for a percentage of their earnings. When EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.

EITC is a vital economic empowerment tool for survivors of domestic violence. Many abusers directly interfere with or purposefully impede the economic well being of survivors by hiding funds, draining bank accounts, or simply stealing money. A study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence revealed that 79% of survivors participating in a financial literacy program reported experiencing some form of economic control; 79% of survivors experienced exploitative economic behaviors, and 78% experienced employment sabotage (such as a partner interfering with their ability to get to work).[2] Similarly, a survey sponsored by Mary Kay, Inc. in 2012 found that 74% of survivors attest to staying with an abusive partner for longer than they preferred due to financial concerns[3]. These barriers often prevent survivors not only from being financially sound and independent, but also from being able to end abusive relationships. An EITC refund can help survivors realize financial independence, autonomy, and safety.

Every year, potentially eligible individuals miss out on the EITC because they do not file a Federal tax return; however, 4 out of 5 people who claim EITC successfully receive their earned credits, according to the IRS[4]. To raise awareness of this program among domestic violence survivors, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has released a collection of resources on this topic, entitled Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Other Tax Credits, located on VAWnet.org, the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women. This Special Collection highlights key resources for the EITC as well as other tax credits. Drawn heavily from the work of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the collection features 11 different educational sections, including:

  • General Information and Fact Sheets;
  • Information on Laws and Public Policies;
  • Reports and Research;
  • A Guide to Tax Credits and Public Benefits Eligibility;
  • State-Specific Information;
  • Information for Domestic Violence Survivors;
  • Information for Underserved Populations, including Native Americans, Workers who are Immigrants, and Workers with Disabilities;
  • A Guide to Tax Credits for Families with Children;
  • A Guide to Higher Education Tax Credits, and
  • Information regarding Free Tax Preparation Services.

Several materials included in the Special Collection are intended to provide helpful information for survivors of domestic violence who are eligible for the EITC. Located within a section entitled, “For Domestic Violence Survivors”, the following resources are available:

  • A fact sheet, Helping Domestic Violence Survivors Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, by the Assets for Independence Resource Center;
  • A link to Innocent Spouse Relief (Including Separation of Liability and Equitable Relief), by the Internal Revenue Service; and
  • A brochure, Your Money Matters: Tax Information for Survivors of Domestic Violence, also by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Program is committed to supporting the safety and economic self-sufficiency of domestic violence survivors and their children. We work to ensure that service providers are aware of resources they can use to help domestic violence survivors, such as financial literacy trainings, Individual Development Accounts, and tax credits. As tax season approaches this spring, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, a grantee of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, hopes to empower survivors to regain self-sufficiency through promoting awareness of the EITC, as well as tools to assist them in accessing this resource.

To access the Special Collection, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Other Tax Credits, visit http://www.vawnet.org/special-collections/DVEITC.php#700.

To learn more about how the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSP) supports the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, visit the FVPSP webpage.

[1] Internal Revenue Service, 2012

[2] Postmus, J. L., et al, (2012). “Understanding economic abuse in the lives of survivors.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(3), 411–430.