Tax incentives, in the form of tax credits, deductions or exemptions, can be effective legal interventions for advancing the public’s health. A tax credit is a direct reduction in tax liability. For example, a $1,000 tax credit saves a taxpayer $1,000 in taxes. By contrast, a tax deduction lowers taxable income and the exact tax savings depends on one’s tax bracket. A tax exemption allows a consumer to avoid paying the sales tax on a product. The power to tax is a tool available to all levels of government—federal, state, and local—and therefore can be utilized in a variety of inventive ways.
The following blog posts and policy briefs examine how tax incentives are being used in innovative ways to tackle issues such as food insecurity, injury prevention, and ex-offender health. Future resources will examine how tax incentives are being used to promote healthy housing, smoke-free policies, physical activity and other public health initiatives. For additional questions regarding these resources, please contact the Network’s Eastern Region by email at Get Technical Assistance or by phone at 410-706-5575.
Tax exemptions can be used effectively to encourage the purchase of consumer goods that support public health and safety by reducing the rate of injury or death. A few states have passed sales tax exemptions that fit the bill for public health, including exemptions for child car seats, bicycle helmets, and fire-safety equipment for homes. But these types of tax exemptions are often underutilized.
This policy brief examines how tax exemptions can encourage the use of child safety seats and bicycle helmets, prevent boating-related fatalities, and promote fire-safety in homes.
Tax incentives can be an effective legal intervention for advancing the public’s health. In this Q&A, Mathew Swinburne, Associate Director at the Network's Eastern Region Office, discusses ways in which tax deductions are being used to address a key barrier to improving the health status of ex-offenders: the inability to secure employment because of conviction status.
One of the key barriers to improving the health status of ex-offenders is the inability to secure employment because of their conviction status. Unemployment is associated with a number of negative health results, including mental health issues like depression, and lack of medical coverage. Also, unemployment correlates with poverty, which limits access to healthy food and housing. This Policy Brief examines ways in which states are using tax deductions to encourage employers to hire individuals from chronically unemployed populations, including ex-offenders.
In the U.S., 42.2 million people lack access to adequate food due to insufficient income or other resources. Food insecurity is associated with a wide range of health issues including depression, anxiety, behavioral problems in children, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Conversely, it’s estimated that between 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted. This waste, in turn, generates substantial greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Tax incentives for food donations could be one policy approach to address these issues.