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House bill makes child tax credit fully refundable, a boon for low earners

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a press conference, along with House Democratic leadership, after the House passed the Build Back Better Act on Nov. 19, 2021.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed legislation Friday that would make the child tax credit fully refundable on a permanent basis, a change that would be of particular significance for low-income families.

The Build Back Better Act, which Democrats passed by a vote of 220-213, would also preserve some temporary enhancements to the credit for a year, through 2022.

The American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March, made the tax credit for parents fully refundable. That means low earners would get the full value of the credit regardless of their income or tax liability.

The $1.75 trillion House legislation would make this a permanent feature of the tax code — which experts say would especially help lower-income parents and cut the number of kids living in poverty.

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Prior to the pandemic-relief law, low earners could only get part of the tax break (up to $1,400) as a refund, while higher earners would get its full value. They also weren’t eligible for the credit if they made less than $2,500 a year.

The Build Back Better Act — which would be the largest expansion of the social safety net in decades and the biggest effort in U.S. history to fight climate change — now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Temporary changes

The legislation made other changes that, unlike full refundability, would be temporary.

The enhanced value of the child tax credit would be extended for another year, through 2022. Parents would get up to $3,000 per child under age 18, and an extra $600 per child under age 6.

The American Rescue Plan temporarily raised the maximum value of the credit from $2,000 per child to its current level, and expanded the number of households that qualify for the tax break.

The pandemic-relief law also allowed families to receive the funds in monthly installments this year, of up to $300 per child. The Build Back Better Act would continue that in 2022.

The federal government has issued $77 billion in total monthly payments from July to November this year, according to the Treasury Department.

However, unlike 2021, these advance payments would be restricted to families according to income. Monthly payments would be available to taxpayers with income below $150,000 (for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return), $112,500 (for heads of household) and $75,000 (single filers).

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