Some commentators have lamented that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is undertheorized—that its purpose is unclear—and that its design is therefore suboptimal. This Note explores the credit’s path-dependent past, which has resulted in a present-day EITC that manifests a diverse, uncoordinated assortment of policy purposes. Although the EITC’s ambiguity of purpose may yield policy inefficiencies, this Note argues that it also produces significant political benefits that would-be reformers who value the EITC’s many societal benefits should take into account before they attempt to enact any major overhaul.

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