Dear Mr. Tax Man, Uncle Sam, Sir:
I am writing this letter in December on my ten-minute break at work. I apologize for my rushed handwriting and the tardiness of this letter. I don’t have access to a computer, except for short periods (only 15 minutes per session) at the library. And the lines have gotten too long for me to wait while my three wiggly kids struggle to sit still (only to be hushed by the library staff and patrons every few minutes). I have been really busy balancing my new jobs with the kids’ schedules, especially with the holidays and all the stress and craziness that they add.
Speaking of the holidays, as usual they have put a major dent in my bank account, or what I imagine it would be like actually having a bank account balance. Between keeping the car going, food on the table, a roof over our heads and the lights and heat on — I am in debt (and sick with stress) again. I don’t have any paid sick days so I have to work no matter what. I indulged in very few gifts for the kids this Christmas – but I have once again broken the camel’s back. And she is me.
The reason for this letter is that my employers have just asked me about where to mail my tax statements. We end up moving almost every year because I get behind on the rent and the kids are loud having to share the bedroom and not getting to play outside while I am at work. I am afraid to send them to the park alone unsupervised so they are stuck inside watching the same videos again and again. I can’t blame them for being so bored and restless. I used to take them to the library to check out books, but the library isn’t open after I get home from work.
Anyway, asking where my W2s should be sent reminded me about my tax returns. And I wanted to let you know that this has been an exceptionally tough year, and I truly do not know what I am going to do to pay the bills that are already stacked high on my bed. I started crying last night when I came home to another gas and electric shutoff notice. But my beautiful daughters reminded me what I always tell them when they complain during this time of year about how cold the apartment is or the steady flow of boxed mac and cheese or that their shoes are too tight and their pants are too short.
Sweet Leticia said recounting my own words, “Be patient, Mama, because in February, Mr. Tax Man, Uncle Sam, Sir, will send us our tax refund. And we will be able to pay all the bills and maybe even have enough to buy tasty, healthy food and warm clothes that fit. And Mama did you remember to send him a thank you note for helping us with new tennis shoes and my birthday party dress? Because Mama remember you said this year, if we let you work two jobs and don’t cry when you have to leave again at night, we might be able to get a computer for our homework, if we are good, and quiet, and nice and grateful. Did you write him a letter telling him thank you and that we are very grateful?”
And then I started crying even more, because I realized that I hadn’t written you a thank you letter for getting us our refund so quickly and so I missed a chance to be a role model for my daughter. I explained that it is important to let people know you appreciate their service. And so today on my ten minute break I am writing you this letter, thanking you Mr. Tax Man, Uncle Sam, Sir, for sending us our tax refund so efficiently. Without it we couldn’t survive as a family, we would be homeless and I would lose the only thing in the world that matters, my children, all three of them. So from the bottom of my heart and soul thank you for saving my family and keeping us together.
P.S. My three beautiful children say thank you too.
P.P.S. We hope our refund is as big as last year, or even bigger, but if not we understand it has been a very tough year for many families in America. We know that Congress writes the tax laws, not you Sir. This is one of the real life examples I use when I teach my children about the power and privilege of voting and being an engaged, educated, and informed American.
With respect and deepest gratitude,
Annie, Leticia, Lucy, and Charlie
Each year, millions of low-income workers and their families receive meaningful tax refunds due in large part to refundable tax credits like the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. Together these two tax credits lift more children out of poverty than any other government program. In 2015, these tax credits lifted 9.8 million Americans including 5.1 million children out of poverty. Another 22 million Americans were made less poor, including 8 million children. These tax refunds stimulate local economies by a multiple of the actual dollars received (about 1.5 to 2 times) because the refunds are spent and spent again even creating new jobs and “making work pay.”
Bottom line: Our income tax system is designed, among other goals, to deliver life-saving work-fare benefits for many hard-working families. Congress must better serve suffering children in working lower income families like Leticia, Lucy, and Charlie by making the enhanced Child Tax Credit (up to $2,000 in the Senate amended version of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act) fully refundable (see Rubio-Lee Proposal). America’s children are our future and we need them to be the best that they can be today and in the future, our future. Happy Holidays, Francine Lipman