Money on the table: child credit $ available via tax returns

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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The Biden administration wants families with children to know that there is roughly $193 billion waiting for them — all they need to do is file their taxes to claim it.

That estimated total is what remains of the expanded child tax credit, and the administration is concerned that some of those most in need of the assistance may be the least likely to get what is due to them.

President Joe Biden increased the payments and expanded who was eligible as part of his coronavirus relief package. While most families already received half of the credit as monthly payments last year, they’ll lose out on the remaining balance unless they file their taxes.

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Vice President Kamala Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling held a virtual event Tuesday to encourage people to send their tax forms to the IRS, including those whose incomes are so low that they might not have traditionally filed.

Harris said that families should go to to check their eligibility. The tax filing deadline is April 18.

“The truth is there are people across our nation who work hard every day and still struggle to get by and it should not be this way in our country,” Harris said. “You still need to file your taxes. That is the only way to receive the second half of what you are owed.”

The public push is occurring at a critical juncture for both the U.S. economy and the child tax credit program. Inflation is running at a nearly 40-year high, meaning that the additional money from the credit will help offset the costs of food, gasoline and other goods as the U.S. is still emerging from the pandemic. But efforts to renew the expanded credits for another year have been blocked in the Senate, making it important for advocates to demonstrate how the credits have reduced child poverty by an estimated 40%.

Yellen said research suggests that the payments are among the most promising policies for combating poverty, highlighting recent research to suggest that the money was linked to higher brain activity in the babies of poor mothers.

“There is very little equivocation that these policies lift up the lives of millions of people, and, in so doing, lift up the country,” Yellen said.

Several lawmakers and nonprofits are taking part in the outreach, and there are plans to hold events in all 50 states and Puerto Rico during the tax filing season. Yellen noted that nonprofits are often better at reaching out to poorer populations.

As part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Biden increased the child tax credits to $3,600 annually for each child aged 5 or under and $3,000 for those who are ages 6 to 17. The government began to send the payments out on a monthly basis starting last July, meaning that there are six months worth of payments waiting to be claimed by people filing their taxes.

The administration estimates that roughly 58 million households would qualify for the credit, which average $3,300 and could be used to offset an existing tax bill or be paid out as a refund.

Workers without children could also get additional help this tax season if they file. The relief package nearly tripled the earned income tax credit for workers without dependent children, meaning that 17 million people could receive credits worth $1,500.

The expanded child tax credits were seen as slashing child poverty to the lowest levels on record. A recent analysis by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and Appalachian State University found no evidence that the monthly payments caused parents to stop working. But critics say that making the credits larger and fully refundable — which ensures that poorer families qualify for the entire benefit — leads to fewer people taking jobs that pay and creates a drag on the economy.

Biden pushed to continue the expanded child tax for another year as part of his “Build Back Better” agenda. But in an evenly split Senate, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin opposed the expanded credit out of concerns that its price tag could increase the deficit and worsen inflation.