Work Opportunity Tax Credit WOTC), one form of activation, Eichhors, Kaufmann, and Konle-Seidl (2009) explain, was enacted in 1997 to replace the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit. Employers who hire individuals in the eligible groups receive tax credits.

The History of WOTC

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Revision of the WOTC

WOTC Components

Eligible Groups

Family members, receiving food stamps; living in subsidized housing

“Vocational rehabilitation referrals iii. “Veterans receiving food stamps, and iv. “Ex-felons who are members of low-income families” (Eichhors, Kaufmann, and Konle-Seidl, 2009, p. 397).


Enhanced Considerations

Provisions C. on-the-job training, Wage Subsidy Program

Targeted groups

Provisions III. Conclusion

A. Summary of Findings




Work Opportunity Tax Credit

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency;

but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”

– Benjamin Franklin (1706 — 1790) (Columbia World…, 1996).


Benjamin Franklin (1706 — 1790), U.S. statesman, writer, asserted in a letter, dated November 13, 1789, that taxes, as death, are two certainties in life (Columbia World…, 1996). Unemployment, albeit, constitutes one uncertainty in life currently meriting attention. As integrating wider segments of the working-age population receives more emphasis, activation serves as a primary topic in the U.S. And European labor and social market policies. In Bringing the Jobless Into Work?: Experiences With Activation Schemes in Europe and the U.S., Werner Eichhorst, Otto Kaufmann, and Regina Konle-Seidl (2009) conduct a comparative assessment “of the logic and the outcomes of activation” (p. xiii). The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), one form of activation, enacted in 1997, succeeded the long-standing Targeted Jobs Tax Credit, which served disadvantaged job seekers from 1978 to 1994. The WOTC:

provides tax credits to employers who hire eligible workers. The eligible group includes welfare’ and Supplemen-tal Security Income (SS1) recipients, those between the ages of IS and 24 who are members of families receiving food stamps or living in empowerment or enter-prise communities, vocational rehabilitation referrals, veterans receiving food stamps, and ex-felons who are members of low-income families. (Eichhors, Kaufmann, and Konle-Seidl, 2009, p. 397; )

The WOTC was later augmented by the Small Business Work Opportunity Tax Act (SBWOTA) (Eichhors, Kaufmann, and Konle-Seidl, 2009).

The History of WOTC

Mark E. Battersby (2007 [b])) a freelance writer and consultant on tax and financial issues, based in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, notes that tax laws routinely include provisions that basically cover a portion of the wages employers paid to new workers they hired from particular groups. Along with the WOTC, two provisions lawmakers have designated in this area included the Work Opportunity (WO) and “Welfare-to-Work (WTW) tax credits for a while. Battersby points out in the article: “The tax man cometh with good news,” that the WO and WTW tax credits aimed to provide incentives so employers would hire economically disadvantaged individuals. Under IRC section 51, the WOTC-general law, the WOTC provides a significant incentive for employers to hire economically disadvantaged individuals. This including qualified ex-felons, food-stamp recipients, summer youth employees, veterans, along with individuals who receive certain welfare benefits (Altieri & Rothman, 2006, ¶ 23).

In a separate article Mark E. Battersby (2007) wrote, “The memorial day tax surprise,” he notes that in 1996, the WOTC began to provide a unique tax incentive to employers for hiring individuals from among groups with significantly high unemployment rates or other individuals with special needs in regard to employment. Employers of large numbers of workers have reportedly been aware of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for awhile. Prior to the passing of the Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act of 2007, P.L. 110-28 (SBWOTA), albeit, many of those who lived in rural counties did not know about the WOTC.

The SBWOTA expands the high-risk youth target groups so that they now include youth from rural renewal counties. The renewal counties consist of counties located outside of metropolitan areas that reportedly experienced lost populations during the 1990s (Battersby (2007 . In the article, “Hiring Incentives target veterans, rural counties,” Alistair M. Nevius, (2007) editor-in-chief, explains that the SBWOTA expansion of the definition of numerous targeted groups, formed tax incentives that affect more clients than originally expected so that other employers living in rural areas, would be eligible for the WOTC. Pooled with the WTW incentives for 2007, “the WOTC enlists state employment security agencies to find and certify individuals who are members of a targeted group. Set to expire for employees hired after Dec. 31, 2007, the WOTC was extended through Aug. 31, 2011” (Nevius, Work Opportunity Tax Credit section, ¶ 3).

Stuart W. Margolis, and Brian L. Enverso (2007), both CPAs, stress in the article, “All you need to know about the new tax act,” that the WOTC, a credit for wages the employer pays when he/she hires individuals from specific targeted groups, like most tax codes, may be beneficial for the employer to discuss concerns and/or issues with a professional tax adviser when he/she applies the rules.

Sarah Hamersma Department of Economics, University of Florida, and Carolyn Heinrich (2008) LaFollette School of Public Affairs and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin Madison, note changes that have influenced the low-skilled and disadvantaged workers’ employment experiences. In the study, “Temporary help service firms’ use of employer tax credits: implications for disadvantaged workers’ labor market outcomes,” Hamersma and Heinrich point out that recently not only have vital labor market changes influenced the employment experiences these particular targeted workers, a strong trend has intensified in these workers participating in the temporary help services (THS) employment sector. With the increase in THS employment, the temporary help service firms simultaneously increased as prominent labor market mediators for the targeted disadvantaged work groups (Hamersma & Heinrich).

A further significant trend, an increase in the employer’s participation in hiring subsidy programs has also materialized. The WOTC, as well as the Welfare-to-Work Tax Credit (WTW) utilize federal income tax credits to reimburse employers for up to 50% of the worker’s wages of the worker who encounters particular employment challenges. Objectives for the investment of this effort include:

Assisting the disadvantaged and low-income individual secure labor market experience, improve the targeted individual’s work skills, help the targeted individual maintain his/her job longer (Hamersma & Heinrich, 2008).

In the past, Hamersma and Heinrich (2008) explain, the fact that an increasing number of individuals working toward certification for the WOTC actually received certified through work at THS firms did not merit much attention. Contrary to the legislative aim to subsidize long-term positions, the majority of THS firms, in spite of their role as labor market intermediaries instead of end-user employer, qualified to claim the WOTC.

Hamersma and Heinrich (2008) conduct an empirical investigation to examine how the subsidies and the temporary nature of employment affect worker outcomes in subsidy-certified THS jobs. Hamersma and Heinrich address two primary questions:

1. Do THS firms’ claims of these subsidies affect the labor market outcomes of their workers?

2. & #8230;Among disadvantaged workers in subsidized firms, how do the labor market outcomes of THS workers compare to those of workers in traditional jobs? (Hamersma & Heinrich, 2008, ¶ 3).

From the survey implemented in their study, Hamersma and Heinrich (2008), find that THS firms may not be utilizing the opportunity to maintain tax credits for disadvantaged workers to intentionally increase the hiring of disadvantaged workers. Basically, these firms do not possess information regarding whether the individual’s status does or does not qualify him/her for the tax credits when he/she is hired. Even after the employer makes his/her hiring decision, information regarding employees claimed for WOTC is confidential information. In fact, one firm responded in the telephone survey Hamersma and Heinrich conducted: “The information is sent to our corporate office, a third party processes the forms, and the tax credits come back to us like a bonus” (Hamersma & Heinrich, 2008, Findings from a Survey of… section, ¶ 3). Basically, the firms who do utilize the WOTC receive “bonuses” for inserting a form in the hiring packets and mailing them for processing. The WOTC, according to Hamersma and Heinrich does not improve the disadvantaged workers’ future labor market outcomes.

Ultimately, Hamersma and Heinrich (2008) conclude that their initial aim to identify the distinctive effects that temporary employment and employer subsidies exert on the labor market outcomes of worker certified for the tax credit programs through work for THS firms, revealed that one may not merely compare average employment outcomes of the targeted workers to others either not certified or nontemporary. Understand the effects of the subsidy or temporary work, Hamersma and Heinrich argue, does not prove adequate, as characteristics such as the person’s age, gender, race, as well as his/her education level differ significantly substantially between each group. In addition, employer characteristics, e.g. The firm’s size, may also predict the participation in the WOTC subsidy program, a factor that also needs consideration when one assesses the effects of subsidies.

Revisions relating to the WOTC

Initially, Eichhors, Kaufmann, and Konle-Seidl (2009) assert, activation appears to be an enticing simple idea. Rather than being idle and receiving public benefit, individuals of working age typically prefer completing useful work. Mark P. Altieri, an associate professor of accounting at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, and Jason A. Rothman, (2006), an associate at Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook and Batista, note a number of enhancements to WOTC in the article, “Surviving Katrina: Tax breaks for victims of the costliest catastrophe in American history.”

According to Altieri and Rothman (2006), in regard to the WOTC – general law, under IRC section 51, the WOTC provides motivation for employers to hire economically disadvantaged individuals. These disadvantaged individuals include qualified ex-felons, food-stamp recipients, veterans, summer youth employees, as well as individuals who receive certain welfare benefits (Altieri & Rothman, ¶ 23). Altieri and Rothman explain that in the past, the WOTC — Katrina was expanded to embrace individuals whose principal residence on August 28, 2005, was located in the Core Disaster Area. Employers in the Core Disaster Area could claim the WOTC for two years, however, only the hiring of new hire as stipulated; eliminating coverage for those individuals hired by August 28, 2005.

The special Katrina provisions, Altieri and Rothman (2006) explain, involved the new law creating a tax credit equal to 40% of the first $6,000 in wages that an employer paid to eligible workers located in the Core Disaster Area. This benefit lasted for the duration of the time in which business was rendered inoperable due to the damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

The U.S. Federal News Service report, “Changes expand federal tax credit program for employers” (2007), notes a number of changes the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth related. Keith W. Cooley, director of the Department of Labor & Economic Growth, stressed that the expansion of the WOTC lightened numerous stipulations the program required as it expanded the categories of workers qualifying for assistance in securing employment. In turn, this provides a greater number of potential workers the employer may select from to qualify for the tax credit. The range of tax credits WOTC offers range from $2,400 to $9,000 for each employee an employer hires; providing these individuals are in the nine categories of workers the program covers. Cooley stresses: “WOTC is a win-win for both the employer and the worker. It helps workers to find jobs, while helping employers to reduce their federal tax burden” (Cooley, as cited in Changes expand…, 2007, ¶ 4). Changes applied to WOTC with its reauthorization during 2007 will cover the individuals who qualify as new hires through August 31, 2011. The following notes seven significant changes made during 2007 to enhance the WOTC:

1. Expanding the veteran target group to assist those with service-rated disabilities of 10% or greater

2. Expanding the age range for food stamp recipients to include 18 to 39-year-olds

3. Dropping the high-risk youth target group and adding designated community residents who are 18 to 39-year-olds and living in Detroit’s Empowerment Zone/Renewal Community (RC), Flint’s RC or the Rural Renewal Counties of Gogebic, Marquette and Ontonagon

4. Ending the income verification requirement for the ex-felon target group

5. Ending the Welfare to Work Tax Credit program and adding its target group – recipients of long-term Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) – to WOTC

6. Increasing the time in which the employer can apply for the credit from 21 days to 28 days after the new hire’s start date

7. To qualify for the WOTC, the employer must employ the worker for at least 120 hrs during the first year of employment in order to claim a 25% credit, or at least 400 hours to claim a 40% credit for the first year. (Changes expand…, 2007, ¶ ¶ 5-11)

Battersby (2007 [b]) reports that changes relating to WOTC during its 2007 will not affect credits, as they will continue to target the nine specific, targeted groups of individuals considered economically challenged. “The combined credit in 2007 will simplify the necessary computations and,” Battersby ([b]) explains, “therefore, enhance its use, especially among smaller contractors and businesses. The amount of the tax credit will, however, remain the same” (Battersby [b], ¶ 6). In addition, Battersby stated, for the majority of the targeted individuals, the credit equals up to 40% of their qualified first-year wages (25% when employment equals more than 120 hours yet totals less than 400 hours. The revision also stipulates that qualified first-year wages may not total more than $6,000 (Battersby [b]).

Jan Rosen (2007) compares smart business owners to fisherman in the article, “Benefits and traps in new tax rules.” The smart business owner, similar to fishermen who tune in to the weather report, stay attuned to “Washington’s ever-changing tax and regulatory climate for developments that could affect their profits” (Rosen, ¶ 1). Rosen relates two significant events that occurred during 2007:: On May 25, President Bush signed the Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act, and on Aug. 3, the Internal Revenue Service proposed regulations on the employee benefit plans known as cafeteria plans” ( ¶ 2).

According to Rosen (2007), although the name of the Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act sounds promising, it is actually technical and targeted narrowly. Barbara Weltman, a tax lawyer and in Millwood, N.Y., contends: “The most significant provision is the increased expensing limit for 2007 through 2010” (Weltman, as cited in Rosen, ¶ 7). Expensing, Rosen explains, basically means that instead of depreciating business equipment over several years, a business may take an immediate tax deduction when the owner purchases qualifying equipment. The SBWOTA extends the Work Opportunity Tax Credit through August 31, 2011, and expands. As noted by other sources in this paper, it permits businesses to claim tax credits for hiring certain workers, up to $4,800 each. The employees include particular veterans and workers, from 18 to 25 years old, from areas with a minimal number of employment opportunity sources (Rosen).


Eligible Groups

During 2009, the article, “Texas workforce commission highlights tax credits for employers,” (2009) reported that the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) alerted Texas employers of the approximately $154 million in tax credits, available for companies that hire workers from specific demographics (Texas workforce…, 2009, ¶ 1). Tom Pauken, TWC Chairman, stressed: “It’s an especially good time for employers to take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. This incentive allows them to benefit from federal tax savings, improve their bottom lines and boost the current economic climate.” (Texas workforce…, ¶ 2). The WOTC is designed to persuade employers to hire new employees from the nine groups of qualified individuals seeking jobs that the WOTC targets, individuals who mayface barriers to employment. The WOTC constitutes a credit of up to $2,400 for each qualifying employee, which includes the following individuals:

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients

Veterans, which includes a specific subgroup for disabled veterans


Designated community residents

Vocational rehabilitation referrals

Summer youth

Food stamp recipients

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients

Long-Term Family Assistance recipients (Texas workforce…, 2009, ¶ 3).

Even though the U.S. ranks as one of the most affluent nations in the world, a considerable number of individuals in the country live in poverty. Nan S. Ellis (2005) Professor of Law, Loyola College in Maryland, reports that during 2003, 35.9 million people in the U.S. reportedly lived below the poverty level, with 16.7% of these individuals being children. In “Employer-Based training programs for TANF recipients: A public policy examination,” Ellis notes that policy makers today, as in the past, continue to struggle with how to best address “the persistent issues of poverty, joblessness, and homelessness” (¶ 1).

Heather Leggiero, (2007) CPA, Albany, New York also relates details regarding the SBWOTA in the article, “The WOTC expanded. The Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act of 2007, P.L. 110-28 (SBWOTA) expanded the definition of the groups targeted by the WOTC, which had been in existence for a number of years. The SBWOTA also created tax incentives, expected to affect more clients than originally perceived as it “expanded the definition of ‘qualified veteran’ to include certain disabled veterans and broadened the definition of a targeted group of high-risk youths, now referred to as designated community residents (DCRs)” (Leggiero, ¶ 1). SBWOTA also allowed individuals and corporate taxpayers to claim the WOTC against the alternative minimum tax for tax years which began after December 31, 2006. These particular changes were deemed effective for employees hired after May 25, 2007, the enactment date for SBWOTA. The WOTC will reportedly end after August 31, 2011. (Leggiero).

Under Sec. 51(d)(3)(A)(ii), Leggiero, (2007) explains, a qualified veteran includes an individual entitled to receive compensation for his/her service-connected disability, permitting:

1. he/she has a hiring date no longer than one year after he/she was discharged or released from active duty in the U.S. armed forces or

2. he/she had “aggregate periods of unemployment during the one-year period ending on the hiring date that equal or exceed six months” (Leggiero, 2007, ¶ 3).

Section 51(d)(5), states that a DCR depicts a person:

1. At least 18 years old, but who has not yet turned 40 years old on the hiring date and

2. he/she possesses qualified wages for services performed while his/her primary place of abode is located “within an empowerment zone, enterprise community, renewal community, or rural renewal county. The rural renewal county is a new qualifying area added to the WOTC” ( Leggiero, 2007, ¶ 3).

The rural renewal county consists of any county located outside a metropolitan statistical area with a net population loss during 1990-1994 and 1995-1999. This definition, which includes 408 counties, covers 32 states and approximately 13% of all counties in the U.S. (Leggiero, 2007, ¶ 3). Employers and employees need to know about and understand the tax incentive:

“The maximum credit is 40% of an employee’s qualified first-year wages, limited to $2,400 per employee (Sec. 51(a)); the partial credit rate is 25%, limited to $1,500 per employee (Sec. 51(i)(3)). Employers elect to take the credit by filing Form 5884, Work Opportunity Credit, with their annual income tax returns. Employees hired after May 25, 2007, are eligible, but, because employees need to be certified, employers must know the rules from the beginning of the hiring process to qualify (Leggiero, 2007, ¶ 5).

According to Jo-Ann Carol Cubello (2008) studies reflect that an employee with a disability traditionally arrives at work on time, works hard to complete their duties, has an exemplary attendance record, utilizes only a few sick days, and maintains longer periods or employment with the employer.

During 2007, the SBWOTA extended the WOTA’s definition of qualified veteran so that it expanded to include particular disabled veterans. The SBWOTA also broadened the definition of a targeted group of high-risk youths to become known as designated community residents (DCRs) (Nevius, 2007, ¶ 1). The SBWOTA retroactively renewed both the WO and the WTW credits for 2006, as it combined them, with improvements, into a single credit for the year, 2007 (Battersby, 2007).

Those employers hiring disabled U.S. military veterans with military service-related disabilities may also receive up to $4,800 in tax credits (Texas workforce…, 2009). In addition, over a two-year period, the employer who hires and employee from a family who has received long-term Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) may be eligible for up to $9,000 for each employee in tax credits (Texas workforce…). Despite these potentially profitable tax breaks, however, the TWC purports that during 2008, out of the 447,554 Texas employers, only 3% reportedly took advantage of the tax credit program (Texas workforce…).

Hamersma (2007) also found that the majority of eligible companies do not take the credit from WOTC, which averages approximately $1,000 for every employee meeting the criteria of one of the particular categories of employees. Although national surveys reveal that a number of qualifying workers are hired, employers do not claim the credit for more than two-thirds of these employees. Evidently, the WOTC does not routinely influence the employer’s hiring decision. Although the policy overtly intends to provide an advantage in the labor market for disadvantaged job seekers, numerous companies do not want to subscribe to preferential hiring (Hamersma).

The article, “Labor commissioner Smith urges business owners to hire inner-city youth,” (2008), reports that M. Patricia Smith, State Labor Commissioner, announced at a press conference during 2008 that employers who hire youth may qualify to receive hundreds of dollars in tax credits. Smith also related a number of other potential benefits for businesses that the WOTC provides for eligible workers. “In today’s uncertain economic times, employers need to take advantage of every incentive to enhance their competitiveness, and Work Opportunity Tax Credits may save them a considerable amount of money,” Commissioner Smith stated. In addition, Commissioner Smith stressed, as the tax credits encourage employers to hire the youth, who are among the most vulnerable worker in the U.S., this counters their lack of employment. Instead of these young people experiencing serious long-term negative implications, particularly the inner-city needing critical exposure to the world of work, the WOTC contributes to more positive expectations for these youth (Labor commissioner…). While federal support for workforce development diminishes, the WOTC constitutes an intelligent, strategic investment in/for the future of the state’s workforce.

David A. Hansell, commissioner of the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, agrees with Commissioner Smith. He asserts that placing young people into the work environment, particularly in urban areas, will help them begin to travel on the path toward adult self-sufficiency. Along with earning a weekly pay check to help support them and their families, the youth will gain the skills and experience that, when coupled with education, will help empower them to move forward in the workforce (Labor commissioner…, 2008).

The article, “Special tax credit aids Paulding Co. development” (2008), relates the following regarding the rural renewal county:

In addition to other qualifications, one of the following requirements must also be met:

On or before the day an individual begins work, the employer has received a certification from state employment agency that the employee is a resident of the rural renewal county. (Special tax credit…, 2008, ¶ 6)

On or before the day an individual is offered employment with the employer, a pre-screening notice is completed by the employer with respect to such ndividual (and not later than the 28th day after the individual begins work for the employer) and the employer submits such notice (signed by the employer and the individual under penalties of perjury) to the designated state agency as part of a written request for certification. (Special tax credit…, 2008, ¶ 7).

The credit is calculated by multiplying 40% times the first $6,000 in wages

paid to the new employee who is certified as a rural renewal county resident and between the ages of 18 and 39 (40% x $6,000 = $2,400). The credit amounts are added from all employees that qualify together (five employees that qualify at the maximum $2,400 would result in a tax return credit of $12,000). (Special tax credit…, 2008, ¶ 8).

No deduction is allowed for the portion of wages equal to the amount of the credit taken for the tax year. The credit is subject to the overall limitations on the amount of business credits that can be taken in any tax year, but a one-year carryback and 20-year carryforward of unused business credits is allowed. An employer can elect to not have the credit apply. (Special tax credit…, 2008,

¶ 6- 9).

In the article, “Tax relief benefits smaller companies: The war spending legislation also contains tax relief for some businesses, and makes significant changes with respect to tax preparers,” Howard W. Wolosky, (2007) also notes tax changes by the SMWOTC, related to the WOTC. These changes prove particularly beneficial to the small-business client. In addition, however, to four pension-related technical corrections, stricter rules serve to guide imposition of penalties for tax preparers. The following list depict basic changes the SMWOTC fostered:

1. The WOTC portrays a 44-month extension for qualified individuals beginning employment following December 31, 2007, and prior to September 1, 2011 Wolosky, 2007).

2. Numerous modifications to the WOTC include the expansion of the qualified veterans’ targeted group, which includes an individual certified as entitled to receive compensation for his/her service-connected disability, if he/she has a hiring date no longer than one year after he/she was discharged or released from active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, or if he/she was unemployed for six months or longer (does not have to be consecutive) during the year culminating on his/her hiring date (Wolosky, 2007).

3. The WOTC additionally extends the first-year wages’ definition of qualified “from $6,000 to $12,000 for individuals who qualify under either of the new expansions of the qualified veteran group. The expanded definition of qualified first-year wages doesn’t apply to veterans qualified with reference to a food stamp program” (Wolosky, 2007, ¶ 4).

4. One more expansion for the WOTC includes the definition of the high-risk youth to include an otherwise qualifying 18-year-old individual, who has not reached the ages of 40 on his/her hiring date. Under this category, the expanded definition includes otherwise qualifying individuals from a rural renewal county (Wolosky, 2007)

5. The vocational rehabilitation referral definition for the WOTC was expanded to include any person whom a designated local agency certifies as an individual with a physical or mental disability that constitutes a significant handicap to his/her securing employment, “and who has been referred to the employer while receiving, or after completing, an individual work plan developed and implemented by an employment network pursuant to subsection (g) of Section 1148 of the Social Security Act” (Wolosky, 2007, ¶ 6). The WTOC changes, Wolosky explains, are effective for individuals who began work for an employer after the date of the enactment of the WTOC.


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