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Child tax credit expansion

Health Factors: Income
Decision Makers: State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

Child tax credits (CTC) are offered to eligible families with children under 17 years of age. The federal CTC varies in amount based on income and number of children and is partially refundable if the credit is higher than the taxes owed; the refundable portion is called the additional child tax credit. In 2018, the federal CTC for children under 17 is $2,000 and up to $1,400 can be received as a refund. It is limited to 15% of income above $2,500, so families that earn less than $2,500 are not eligible. There is also a nonrefundable $500 CTC available for other qualifying dependents. In 2018, an estimated 29 million children from low income working families will not receive the full value of the CTC (TPC-Maag 2018). Some state governments also offer CTCs. Similar to the federal CTC, state eligibility and refund amounts vary by income and number of children (TCWF-State tax credits). The CTC could be expanded by increasing the credit amount, making the credit fully refundable, decreasing or eliminating the earnings threshold, or creating a fully refundable supplement for families with young children.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced poverty
Increased employment

Evidence of Effectiveness

Expanding refundable tax credits for working families, such as the child tax credit (CTC), is a suggested strategy to reduce poverty (USPMFP-Greenstein 2018, CBPP-Sherman 2013, CDF 2015, NCCP-Hartig 2014, NBER-Hoynes 2016), particularly among young children from very poor families (USPMFP-Greenstein 2018, CBPP-Marr 2016), and encourage work in low income families (CBPP-Marr 2015, Urban-Maag 2011). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and determine optimal tax benefit amounts.

Available evidence suggests that the CTC can help reduce and alleviate poverty in the families that receive it (CBPP-Marr 2016, CBPP-CTC). When income eligibility was reduced from $11,500 to $3,000 in 2009, for example, over 70% of additional benefits went to families with incomes below $30,000 (NBER-Hoynes 2016). Eliminating the earnings threshold entirely would increase benefits for the poorest families (TPC-Maag 2016, NBER-Hoynes 2016).

A 2018 report suggests restructuring the CTC to phase in with the first dollar earned, allowing the full amount to be refunded, and, for families with young children (under 6), phasing in the CTC at 50% rather than 15%. This proposal would increase benefits by around $12 billion per year; extending the full refund to all young children in low income families, regardless of parents’ earnings, would cost an additional $2 billion per year (USPMFP-Greenstein 2018).

A 2015 report projects that making the child tax credit fully refundable would reduce child poverty by 12% (1.3 million children), with the greatest benefit among black and white children, and families with no working adults. Making the credit fully refundable would cost approximately $12.4 billion (CDF 2015).

Implementation

United States

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 doubled the maximum child tax credit (CTC) from $1,000 to $2,000 for children under 17 with $1,400 refundable and lowered the minimum eligible income to $2,500 from $3,000. It also created a non-refundable $500 CTC for other dependents, and increased the income at which the credit phases out from $75,000 ($110,000 if married) to $200,000 ($400,000 if married). These changes will expire after 2025 unless they are extended, reverting to pre-2018 levels. An estimated 91% of families with children could receive the CTC in 2018 (TPC-Maag 2018).

California, Colorado, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma have state child tax credits; Colorado and New York’s credits are refundable (TCWF-State tax credits).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not have a state child tax credit (TCWF-State tax credits).

Implementation Resources

IRS-CTC - Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Interactive tax assistant: Is my child a qualifying child for the child tax credit? Accessed on October 11, 2018

Citations - Description

TCWF-State tax credits - Tax Credits for Working Families (TCWF). State tax credits. Accessed on October 22, 2018
TPC-Maag 2018 - Maag E. Who benefits from the child tax credit now? Washington, DC: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC); 2018. Accessed on October 29, 2018

Citations - Evidence

CBPP-CTC - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Child Tax Credit. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2014. Accessed on October 11, 2018
CBPP-Marr 2015 - Marr C, Huang CC, Sherman A, DeBot B. EITC and child tax credit promote work, reduce poverty, and support children's development, research finds. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2015. Accessed on October 11, 2018
CBPP-Marr 2016 - Marr C, Cho C, Sherman A. A top priority to address poverty: Strengthening the child tax credit for very poor young children. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2016. Accessed on October 11, 2018
CBPP-Sherman 2013 - Sherman A, Trisi D, Parrott S. Various supports for low-income families reduce poverty and have long-term positive effects on families and children. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2013. Accessed on October 11, 2018
CDF 2015 - Ending child poverty now. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund (CDF); 2015. Accessed on October 22, 2018
NBER-Hoynes 2016 - Hoynes H, Rothstein J. Tax policy toward low-income families. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2016: Working Paper 22080. Accessed on October 11, 2018
NCCP-Hartig 2014 - Hartig S, Skinner C, Ekono M. Taxing the poor: State income tax policies make a big difference to working families. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP); 2014. Accessed on October 22, 2018
TPC-Maag 2016 - Maag E, Ramirez E. Reforming the child tax credit: An update. Washington, DC: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC); 2016. Accessed on October 11, 2018
Urban-Maag 2011 - Maag E, Rennane S, Steuerle CE. A reference manual for child tax benefits. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2011:Discussion Paper No. 32. Accessed on October 22, 2018
USPMFP-Greenstein 2018 - Greenstein R, Maag E, Huang C-C, Horton E, Cho C. Improving the child tax credit for very low-income families. US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. 2018. Accessed on October 26, 2018

Citations - Implementation

TCWF-State tax credits - Tax Credits for Working Families (TCWF). State tax credits. Accessed on October 22, 2018
TPC-Maag 2018 - Maag E. Who benefits from the child tax credit now? Washington, DC: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC); 2018. Accessed on October 29, 2018

Page Last Updated

October 30, 2018