One of the main stumbling blocks to full distribution of advance child tax credit (AdvCTC) payments has been the relative inaccessibility of the online sign-up tool for individuals who don’t have a 2019 or 2020 tax return on file with the IRS. Today the Treasury Department announced major improvements to the sign-up tool:
Treasury is announcing its commitment — as part of the Administration’s efforts to extend the expanded CTC program — to create a permanent, multi-lingual, and mobile friendly sign-up tool to help more Americans who do not regularly file taxes to claim their CTC. Treasury will work with Congress to ensure the effort is fully resourced. The Administration will also work with Congress to provide the necessary funding for a multi-year effort — leveraging public sector and community-oriented solutions — to reach and sign up more families and children.
In the meantime, Treasury and the White House are announcing a new, mobile-friendly, bilingual sign-up tool created by Code for America — a civic technology non-profit — which will be available in the coming weeks. The Administration will make an all-of government effort to enroll eligible families in the CTC, while also supporting the type of outreach and assistance needed over the long-term to ensure the Child Tax Credit is lifting up all our nation’s children.
The “sign-up tool” functions as a simplified filing portal, creating a 2020 tax return which the IRS uses to calculate 2021 advance child tax credit payments pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act. The inability to get a 2020 return “on file” has been a major source of frustration for some nonfilers with children. A more accessible portal will help, although it is just one piece of the puzzle. Individuals will still need help verifying their identity and resolving problems. Next to identity verification and return processing delays, the most common problem we hear from callers is submitting their information only to have it bounce back as someone else has already claimed them or their children on a tax return. But, improvements to the first step should surface these problems earlier.
The press release also includes information on payments made to date, and the impact that the payments are having:
…more than $15 billion were paid to families that include roughly 61 million eligible children in the second monthly payment of the expanded and newly-advanceable Child Tax Credit from the American Rescue Plan passed in March. The number of payments this month increased and cover an additional 1.6 million children. Eligible families received a payment of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child age 6 to 17.
This tax relief is having a real impact on the lives of America’s children. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data released earlier this week, parents reported having less trouble covering the costs of food and other household expenses after receiving their first CTC payment. The share of families reporting that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week dropped to the lowest percentage since the pandemic began. Parents are using their CTC payments to pay for basics for their kids. Roughly half of those who received a July CTC payment reported using it to pay for food and 1 in 4 spent some of their CTC on clothing.
Given the impact on child poverty that the payments appear to be having, the improvements to the simplified filing portal announced today may pave the way for Congress to extend advance CTC payments beyond 2021.