Face-to-Face Meeting Role Play with a EITC/CTC “Skeptic”

To help prepare for during the RESULTS International Conference and/or during the August recess (House: 8/3- 9/7; Senate 8/10-9/7), this is a role play of what a face-to-face meeting with a member of Congress might look like – this is a specific example of a meeting with a policymaker who is initially skeptical about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).  

Meredith (Volunteer): Hi Congresswoman Carter, thank you for talking time to meet with us. May I ask how much time do you have to meet with us?

Joanne (Rep.): Hello, it’s great to have you here in DC. I have about five minutes to talk with you. Where are you all from?

Susan (Volunteer): Hi Congresswoman, I’m Susan and I’m from Centennial.

Meredith (Volunteer): Hi Congresswoman Carter, my names is Meredith and I live in Aurora. We‘d like to talk with you today about the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Joanne (Rep.): OK, what specifically would you like to discuss about tax credits?

Susan (Volunteer): Are you familiar with the EITC and CTC?

Joanne (Rep.): Yes, I am aware of them. I’m not a tax expert but understand they go to poor families.

Susan (Volunteer): That’s right. And they are very successful. Between 2011 and 2013, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit lifted 148,000 people out of poverty in Colorado, including 82,000 children. Also, studies show that children who live in EITC households grow up healthier, do better in school, and are more productive as adults. And they don’t just help families who receive them; they help all of us. In 2012, $775 million was put back into the Colorado economy as a result of the EITC.

Meredith (Volunteer): But the outlook is not all good. Vital improvements to the EITC and CTC are expiring in 2017. This concerns us because millions of families could be pushed into poverty if that happens. As the mother of two young children I know how difficult it can be to afford child care, nutritious meals, and everything else my kids need to succeed. Congress must act this year to save key provisions of these pro-work tax credits that help millions of hard-working families make ends meet.

As you may know, Chairman Paul Ryan  of the House Ways and Means Committee has proposed to expand the EITC and the  As Ways and Means discusses tax legislation and negotiates a deal with the Senate and President, we need members of Congress like you voicing your support for these tax credits to Representative Ryan. We hope you will tell Chairman Ryan you want the Ways and Means Committee to save these key provisions that help millions of Americans to pay for things that keep them working, such as child care and transportation.

Joanne (Rep.): One of my concerns is that these tax credits are rife with fraud.

Susan (Volunteer): We agree there needs to be a reduction in EITC errors – but to be clear, these are often unintentional errors, not fraud. As we both know, filing taxes can be complicated, especially in complex family situations like when parents divorce.  Studies indicate that often these aren’t errors, and 85 percent of children are claimed correctly.

Steps have been taken to reduce the EITC error rate, and more steps should be taken – we hope you will support that effort. I can send you more details about the Treasury Department’s recommendations. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that the error rate not be used as an excuse to penalize honest hard-working families by failing to maintain the EITC and CTC provisions currently scheduled to expire after 2017.   

Joanne (Rep.): I will have to look into this more. But why are we talking about this now? These improvements are in place for another two years. We have more pressing things to deal with first.

Meredith (Volunteer): Actually, this is best time to deal with this issue. Some in Congress have signaled that they will try later this year to make business tax breaks (including the so-called “tax extenders”) permanent, without offsetting the cost. Congress must show they support working families by making the EITC and CTC provisions for modest-income working families permanent as well. This is good policy and hard-working Americans shouldn’t have the threat of deeper poverty hanging over them for months or years on end. It’s the right thing to do.

So, we are hoping you will speak to Representative Ryan in the next few weeks, voicing your support for saving these key EITC and CTC provisions. Is that something we can count on you to do?

Joanne (Rep.): I will take all of this information into consideration, but I want to ask my staff to look into this forward. Thank you for coming to DC to voice your concerns. I know we all share the common goal of making Colorado a better place to live.

Susan (Volunteer): Thank you for your time Congresswoman Carter. We will leave this packet with you with more information on this issue. How should we follow up with your staff?

Joanne (Rep.): I will make sure you get contact information for my tax aide, Bill. Give him a call next week.  

Meredith (Volunteer): We appreciate you taking the time to meet with us today. Remember that these tax credits are important to millions of hardworking families in Colorado and around the country. We look forward to working with you to make sure they get the attention they deserve. 

Before we go, can we get a picture with you?