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Redirecting Tax Expenditures Could Help CO Achieve Equity Goals

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Monday, March 22, 2021   

DENVER -- The Colorado state auditor's office has released a series of reports on tax expenditures, including deductions, exemptions, credits and other ways the state spends money through the tax code, and advocates for working families are urging lawmakers to boost programs that deliver on their promises.

Caroline Nutter, tax-policy analyst for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, said eliminating expenditures identified as ineffective or wasteful can free up resources for programs that can help the state achieve important equity goals.

"Because Black and Latino Coloradans disproportionately make up our low-wage working population, reforming the tax code like this can actually make our state more racially equitable," Nutter contended.

The auditor's office found many tax expenditures that are not creating jobs or growing the economy, and don't benefit most taxpayers.

Nutter pointed to the Vendor Fee as one example. Designed to compensate businesses for the costs of collecting sales taxes, the auditor's office found the program mainly benefits big-box stores, not the small businesses that need assistance.

Nutter acknowledged some tax expenditures do work to benefit the economy, lift people out of poverty and make Colorado a more equitable place to live.

She cited tax credits that benefit working families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit, as good examples of programs that achieve what they set out to do.

"Kids whose parents claim these tax credits do better in school," Nutter observed. "And even earn more money later in life by increasing their likelihood of attending college and making college more affordable."

Nutter added research by national policy experts showed the credits have helped lift millions of families across the country, and tens of thousands of Coloradans, out of poverty every year.

Studies also found the credits can improve the health of pregnant women and their babies.

Disclosure: Colorado Fiscal Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Census, Education, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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