(The Center Square) – Legislation that would expand eligibility for the Working Families Tax Credit, or WFTC, drew support from those testifying before the Senate Ways & Means Committee at a Monday afternoon public hearing

Second Substitute House Bill 1477 would allow those who are married but filing their taxes separately to be eligible for the credit. It would also allow retroactive refunds for up to three years for those who are qualified but did not apply for the tax credit previously.

Applications for the WFTC, which will distribute up to $1,200 to low-income individuals who qualify annually, opened on Feb. 1.

Applicants must have lived in Washington for at least six months during 2022. Valid Social Security Numbers or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers are also required. Applicants must have filed their 2022 tax returns before trying to claim the credit.

A trio of remote testifiers spoke out in favor of the bill.

Emily Vyhnanek is the Working Families Tax Credit campaign manager at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

“I’m pleased to share with you that we have well surpassed the 100,000 mark of applications to the credit so far, and since the passage of this credit the Working Families Tax Credit coalition has been dedicated to ensuring the credit reaches communities successfully and equitably,” she told the committee.

” she told the committee. “There were a number of fixes that the coalition identified during the setup of the program that are necessary to increase the access to the credit and the fixes require statutory changes for it to be addressed.”

Anna McKnight, a public policy specialist with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, urged passage of the bill “to help showcase why cash support like this credit are so empowering for survivors of domestic violence.”

That small change could make a big difference in the lives of those who have already endured so much, she suggested.

“We’re asking the committee to pass this bill as many survivors don’t have the feasibility and safe option of filing jointly with their abusers and thus may not have access to the tax credit,” McKnight explained. “This small technical change to allow individuals filing married separately to qualify will have big impacts to making the tax code more equitable and accessible for survivors of domestic violence.”

Casey Lantz, outreach coordinator with United Way of King County, spoke out about how expanding the tax credit could benefit those who have been reluctant to file taxes.

“This change would give taxpayers up to three years to apply for their WFTC, which would be congruent with the IRS standard of allowing taxpayers up to three years to claim refunds of tax credits,” she said. “This change would have big impacts for the people who come get their taxes done for free for our free file program. This change would help encourage tax filing.”

She cited an example of a woman with children who showed up at United Way last year to get current on her taxes and because of the federal three-year window “was able to receive over $29,000, which was a very big impact on her life, as you can imagine.”

Committee Chair Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said 445 people who did not wish to testify signed in pro-SSHB 1477.

If the bill passes the Legislature, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Originally published on thecentersquare.com, part of the BLOX Digital Content Exchange.