Guest Blog Post: How School Districts Can Help Families Claim the Expanded Child Tax Credit

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Guest Blog Post: How School Districts Can Help Families Claim the Expanded Child Tax Credit

December 15, 2021

Today’s guest blog post comes from Coalition on Human Needs and the Partnership for America’s Children.

Many families need some extra breathing room as they navigate the expenses associated with raising kids. In November, the families of 61 million children received more than $15 billion of relief through expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments. Most received those payments automatically. However, more than four million children live in families that have so little earned income that they are not required to file tax returns; these families may have missed out on CTC payments because they were required to take steps to claim the credit.

During the coming months, superintendents and school districts can play critical roles in ensuring that families receive the full amount of the expanded CTC for both 2021, and depending on federal legislation, 2022. Simple steps can make a big difference. To learn more, read below and join us for the webinar, “How School Leaders Can Help Connect Families to the Expanded Child Tax Credit,” on January 20 at 1 p.m. ET. Representatives from the Partnership for America's Children, Coalition on Human Needs and the Shah Family Foundation will share best practices and resources to help your districts help families claim this critical benefit. You’ll also hear directly from a school leader whose district conducted CTC outreach. Register for the webinar here.

The American Rescue Plan Act expanded the CTC for 2021. Almost 90 percent of children in the U.S. are eligible, and the expansion is expected to reduce the number of kids experiencing poverty by more than 40 percent. In October alone, expanded CTC payments kept 3.6 million kids out of poverty. The expansion is especially critical for Black and Latinx children, who disproportionately missed out on the CTC before its expansion. Many studies have shown that additional income, like the expanded CTC, is associated with better outcomes for kids in families with low incomes, including stronger educational performance, improved health, and reduced stress. 

The law expanded the CTC by increasing the amount per child that families receive (to $3,600 for kids under six and $3,000 for kids from six to 17) and making 17-year-olds eligible. A family in your district with kids aged five, seven and nine will receive $9,600 through the 2021 CTC. Critically, the CTC was also made fully refundable, meaning that families with no or very low incomes can still claim the full amount of the credit. Half the credit was made payable in advance payments in 2021.

While most families have automatically received payments, more than 4 million kids are at risk of missing out on the expanded CTC, because the IRS does not have their caregivers’ information. These “non-filers” are disproportionately immigrants, people of color, and those with no or very low incomes. And every family must file a tax return in 2022 to get the second half of the credit. If Congress passes the Build Back Better Act with its current version of the CTC provision, families will also be able to get the expanded credit for 2022, in monthly advance payments.

Schools are uniquely positioned to reach families, and with your leadership, can provide accessible resources and support in claiming the CTC. When schools took simple steps this year like texting families and conducting automated phone calls, significant numbers of families claimed the credit. A few minutes encouraging families to apply and telling them where to get expert advice can make a big difference for your students.

For now, one of the best way to help families receive the full 2021 CTC is by directing them to (English) or (Spanish), where they can sign up to be alerted when free tax assistance becomes available.. Next spring, an online filing portal may launch to simplify the process of claiming the CTC for individuals who are not required to file full tax returns. 

If you have any questions or need resources prior to the January 20th webinar, please contact Julia Beebe, Child Tax Credit Outreach Coordinator with the Coalition on Human Needs and Partnership for America’s Children: