THERE MAY be a devil lurking. But U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah's plan to introduce a $4,000 education tax credit is too good an idea to get lost in details.

Fattah plans to introduce a bill next month to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $4,000 for any college student who agrees to give 100 hours of public service.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit Act would ease the tuition, books and other expense burdens that students confront by applying the tax-credit dollars directly to those items. Even students who are receiving Pell grants can qualify. It would not be just a one-time credit, but available for multiple years.

The devilish details that Fattah's staff needs to work through involve how to get the money to the people who need it most, including those with incomes so low that they don't file federal tax returns.

Most families earning tax credits are in higher income brackets; Fattah's plan would open the credit to families whose problem is raising the initial outlay.

Mayor Nutter may want to consider offering a similar wage-tax credit for the poor. *