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William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law



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The earned income tax credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for federal income tax purposes that is generally available to lowincome taxpayers who have income from either employment or selfemployment. The EITC is currently the largest government program providing aid to low-income individuals. The subsidy provided by the EITC is of particular importance to individuals subjected to domestic abuse, given that such individuals are often impoverished, and the EITC can provide them with the financial resources necessary to improve, endure, or leave an abusive relationship.

Despite the importance of the EITC, married individuals subjected to domestic abuse face serious difficulties in claiming the credit. Because married individuals are not permitted to claim the EITC on a married filing separate return, such individuals are left with three return-filing options for claiming EITCs: (1) file a joint return, (2) qualify and file as a single taxpayer, or (3) qualify and file as a head of household. As discussed in this Article, the first option may be undesirable given the particular circumstances surrounding the abuse, and the second and third options may be either unattainable or only attainable by taking steps that may not be in the best interests of an individual from the standpoint of overall well-being.



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