The Internal Revenue Service announced the launch of two web portals designed for American parents to access the child tax credit, giving many parents just four weeks to declare their eligibility for the benefit ahead of the first of six monthly payments.
The expanded child tax credit, passed in the American Rescue Plan in March, will begin disbursements of $250 – $300 per child each month, totaling $3000 or $3600 starting on July 15.
Those who typically don’t file taxes or have had significant changes in permanent residence or child custody will be able to notify the IRS of their eligibility or changed circumstances using one of two web portals.
For the Americans who stand most to benefit, ensuring their eligibility is confirmed with the non-filer portal for those with an income below the federal poverty line of $12,200 before that date is of critical importance.
Virtually all children below the poverty line are eligible for the payments, and if implementation of the benefit is successful, it is expected to cut poverty by at least 45% according to a Columbia University study.
However, some polling suggests that awareness of the policy is low enough to cause concerns about the payments reaching their full potential. According to a poll conducted by Data For Progress, 53% of Americans know little or nothing about the child tax credit.
“Those struggling to keep up with their expenses are likely not keeping up to date with the newest changes to federal tax policy,” said Greg Nasif, political director of Humanity Forward. “Giving families three weeks to learn about this benefit, how to file with the IRS, and then to get it done, is worrying, to say the least.”
The web portal can also be used, according to the IRS, to claim any of the uncollected stimulus checks from the three rounds of direct cash relief delivered since March 2020.
According to The Hill, a group of more than 50 House members is urging the IRS to use the information it obtained from a stimulus payment-related web tool to increase outreach about the tax credits that benefit low-income families who may not be aware of their eligibility.
“The IRS has a limited-time and unique opportunity, while the information is still fresh, to conduct targeted outreach to these low-income non-filers who may be unaware of their eligibility for these important refundable tax credits,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to the IRS.
For advocates in Washington of the expanded child tax credit’s extension, which is currently being discussed, an effective rollout of the child-poverty slashing legislation would strengthen their case to make the expansion a long-standing part of the tax code.
However, the low level of awareness at present puts the policy’s long-term ambitions in a state of uncertainty.