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Growth in the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits

The last decade has seen a surge in the use of the tax system to deliver dollars to families with children. As late as the early 1990s, the most important tax provision applying to children was the dependent exemption. For several decades, however, Congress failed to increase this exemption in line with per capita income growth and, until 1985, for inflation as well. Beginning with tax reform in 1986, Congress expanded the earned income tax credit (EITC) in a series of legislative steps (1986, 1990, 1993, 2001). Meanwhile, lawmakers created the child tax credit (CTC) in 1997 and expanded it in 2001.

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