These kids: Alex, 15, Lauren, 12, Josie, 10, Brianna, 9, Yasmine, 8, Zara, 7, Ruby, 6, Bella, 5, Sarah, 4, Cali, 3, Mattie, 2, Cami, 1.
These kids are U.S. citizens, the equivalent of permanent residents. But like most Americans, they are not eligible for the Child Tax Credit. And those who are not considered “family” may as well be hidden in the dark.
For the past three years, I have been helping families like this, from hundreds of miles away, by phone and Internet. This family came to me desperate for help. The caller said she and her children were born in Peru and had lived in the United States for almost five years. But as soon as she applied for the tax credit she was told that, because she did not file any federal taxes for the first six years, she and her children were ineligible for the refund. Her money, she was told, was gone. The family was limited to receiving $5,000 in a lump sum payment from the government. The children were permitted to file for the full $1,000 each. But there was no way to know how much each of them would get. The limit on the credits granted was $1,000 per child, even if the three oldest were eligible for more. No one had information on how many of them were eligible for the credit, exactly how much they would get, or whether they had actually filed tax returns.
As I spent time with this family, I heard about others like them. As I wrote in an email to the Department of Treasury, in 2015 federal law passed, providing children with a $1,000 tax credit for every eligible family. But because there are an estimated 12 million children with no income tax return, there is no real way to figure out how many children are eligible. And the window of opportunity for the government to award the credit, which can be issued retroactively, is still open.
Each year, tax payers file more than 120 million returns. However, the government sent out $60 billion in refunds to all taxpayers in 2018, while paying out about $50 billion in additional refunds to some only after doing formal reviews. How can the government work in this way, when it is taking so much of the nation’s income?
And why are Congress and the Department of Treasury not passing laws that ensure all of these children are eligible for the credit? Our government has a responsibility to help each and every child in America.
This family has been fighting for what they believe is right. When I asked how the family was supporting all five children financially, they explained that they were forced to sell their share of their home. All of their children’s educational expenses had been deducted as student loan debt, but not their shared family income. So the funds from the largest tax refund they would ever get were all going to a family that couldn’t even pay the electric bill. Their success is being nullified by Washington.
Surely all parents in this country, like this family, want the best for their children. They want to help them, and give them the education, stability and opportunity to succeed. But it is not right to allow families like this to be discriminated against. It is not right for Congress to let this lapse, and to take from children with no real options for the refunds. No one is fighting harder than this family to make sure that kids like theirs are fully supported.