The White House has temporarily taken down its Child Tax Credit online tool until the end of this tax season due to what the Biden administration said was confusion over who should be using the portal.
The widget was created for low-income families — those earning less than $12,400 individually and $24,800 for couples — who aren’t required to file a tax return but can still claim the child tax credit payments by reporting basic information about their household.
Code for America, which developed the portal for the federal government, said 114,000 households had used the tool in the first two months after it launched.
But now, the GetCTC service won't be available until after the filing season ends on April 18. Users can only sign up for updates about the portal, and those non-filers seeking to claim their child tax credit payments will either have to fill out a return or face long waits for the assistance.
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Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, told Politico that problems arose because people who are required to file returns mistakenly used the non-filer portal to claim their child tax credit and then submitted a regular return, essentially double-filing, which created confusion for the understaffed IRS and resulted in delays.
He said the issue also happened last fall but it was manageable.
“Last year, since the filing season had already ended, those mistakes were kind of no harm, no foul,” Sperling told Politico. “But if that happened at the beginning of the filing season this year, these families would get through the Child Tax Credit portal and then when they try to do their normal tax filings, they would look like they were trying to file their taxes twice.”
How Does This Impact Low-Income Families?
Families that aren’t required to file a tax return now have to wait until after the tax filing deadline in April to claim their monetary assistance, or consider filling out a traditional tax return.
However, Children’s Defense Fund policy associate Zach Tilly told NBC there are barriers preventing some people from completing a tax return.
“We know that many low income families don't have access to their tax documents,” Tilly said. “And I know there's some fear about filing a full tax return and maybe making mistakes in providing details to the IRS.”
The simplified GetCTC tool was designed specifically for very low-income families and would have been a big help for them to their credit, he added.
The IRS urged non-filers to file a traditional return so they can take advantage of other tax benefits they wouldn’t get otherwise, something Tilly also encouraged people to do. Those additional benefits include Recovery Rebate Credit, Credit for Child and Dependent Care Expenses and Earned Income Tax Credit.
“It may be the case that many of these families are eligible to receive the Income Tax Credit, which is another sizable pool of money,” Tilly said.
After the tax season is over, the administration will reopen the online portal for families to claim their child tax payments and launch a public campaign to raise awareness.
“Once the normal tax season is over, we will again do an all-out push to get those remaining low-income parents and grandparents who haven’t filed to do so through this simplified process,” Sperling told Politico.
Available Resources For Taxpayers
Individual taxpayers can call the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time for telephone assistance. The agency offers interpreters in more than 350 languages. For assistance in Spanish, call 800-829-1040. For all other languages, call 833-553-9895.
The IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center is also now taking appointments to help with any tax issues that can't be addressed by phone or online. To contact a representative, call 844-545-5640.
Certain taxpayers may qualify to get free tax return preparation and electronic filing help at a location near where they live with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.