Earned Income Tax Credit is helpful, but open to cheaters

The Earned Income Tax Credit can be a blessing to low-income families. It also has been a bonanza for tax cheats – and the Internal Revenue Service cannot seem to stop them.

About 27 million families received nearly $62 billion in tax credits through the EITC in 2011. Many received checks from the IRS. Some people who qualify actually pay no taxes and get money back from the government.

But last year, the IRS paid as much as $15.6 billion through the EITC to people who may not have qualified, it was revealed Tuesday. The amount is about one-fourth of all EITC payments.

For context, consider this: The amount of improper EITC payments exceeded the total of IRS refunds to all West Virginians and Ohioans in 2011.

You probably can guess how IRS officials reacted to the shocking news. They said they are “aggressively fighting tax fraud,” The Associated Press reported. The agency also pledges to improve efforts to send EITC checks only to those who qualify.

That has become the standard promise from bureaucrats caught not doing their jobs: We’re improving. Trust us.

Some of those receiving EITC checks improperly have made simple mistakes. Others committed fraud and should be caught and punished.

Meanwhile, IRS officials need to take EITC fraud seriously.