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FRAUD INFESTS EARNED TAX CREDIT

One of the pillars of President Clinton's re-election platform is crumbling less than a year before the 1996 campaign heats up.

A closer look at the Earned Income Tax Credit - the centerpiece of Clinton's 1993 effort to redistribute the tax burden - shows that it's subject to so much fraud and abuse that precious few dollars are trickling down to those who are supposed to benefit.Sen. William Roth, R-Del., chairman of the governmental affairs committee, has found that up to 40 percent of tax returns seeking the EITC contain serious errors or are faked. In other federal programs, like food stamps or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, fraud and error rates are considered to be high if they exceed 6 percent to 8 percent.

The primary sources of EITC fraud are people who falsely claim to have children or understate their children's ages. Others cheat the government by fabricating jobs or claiming they are divorced when they're really married, so they can collect twice as much money.