Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Mary Baker


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the largest government anti-poverty programs, helping low-income families to build and maintain economic security. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to determine if where taxpayers live in western South Dakota impacts the utilization of EITC. Results of analysis of tax return information, higher education accounting programs, and interview records were combined to answer the study questions.

Ten years of data (tax return averages) were retrieved from the Brookings Institution and were analyzed to determine if geography was a predictor of the likelihood of filing for EITC and the amount of the EITC claimed. The tax return averages were segregated by county and grouped into six regions: metro, rural, and four Indian reservations (Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock). Three groups emerged: the metro/rural region, the northern reservations Cheyenne River/Standing Rock, and the southern reservations Pine Ridge/Rosebud. Significant differences were found among the three groups in the propensity to claim EITC in all ten years studied. The results were mixed in the analysis of the amount of EITC claimed.

Examination of accounting program curriculum, syllabi, textbook, and faculty interviews was performed to test for a connection between what was taught at higher education institutions and utilization of the EITC in that corresponding geographic region. Inconsistent access to a higher education institution between regions and a distinct dissimilarity in the content of EITC training students received was found. Taxpayers living on reservations with tribal colleges were more likely to claim EITC, and the amounts of their claims were larger than for taxpayers on reservations without tribal colleges.

Taxpayers and accounting professionals were interviewed to gain understanding of taxpayers' perceptions about EITC. Taxpayers' lack of understanding of EITC was widespread, yet their expectations of large tax refunds were predominant. It is recommended that accounting professionals incorporate financial education and wealth-building tools into tax preparation meetings to promote understanding of EITC and to help poor families to escape poverty.