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House lawmakers on Wednesday night passed a $78 billion bipartisan tax package, including a child tax credit expansion that could benefit millions of children in low-income families, according to policy experts.

If enacted, the bill would expand access to the child tax credit, or CTC, and retroactively boost the refundable portion for 2023, which could affect taxpayers this filing season.

While less generous than the pandemic-era child tax credit, the proposed changes still represent “real money” for millions of families, according to Chuck Marr, vice president for federal tax policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill, but it still needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate amid competing priorities.

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“There are real benefits here for 16 million kids in low-income families,” Marr said. “This doesn’t do everything it needs to be done, but it’s definitely an important step in the right direction.”

The bill would expand the child tax credit through 2025 and lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line in the first year, and an additional 3 million children would be less poor, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

If it is enacted, eligible families could see an average tax cut of $680 for 2023 taxes, according to estimates from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

2021 expansion dropped child poverty rates

“We know that the child tax credit is an incredibly effective, well-targeted mechanism for delivering relief to families with children,” said Steven Hamilton, assistant professor of economics at The George Washington University. 

The child poverty rate “precipitously dropped” during the 2021 child tax credit expansion, Hamilton said. “And then as soon as that expired, it radically increased.”

The American Rescue Plan boosted the maximum tax break to $3,000 or $3,600 per child, up from $2,000, and sent monthly payments to families. As a result, the child poverty rate fell to a historic low of 5.2% in 2021, largely due to the expansion, a Columbia University analysis found.

After pandemic relief expired, childhood poverty more than doubled in 2022, jumping to 12.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

The long-term impact of CTC expansion

A permanent expansion of the child tax credit could also provide long-term benefits, according to research published Thursday by the Urban Institute.  

Modeling a permanent version of the 2021 child tax credit increase, the report projects higher graduation rates and future earnings for children whose families are child tax credit recipients.

Even a small boost of income can pay really big dividends.

Nikhita Airi

Research analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

“Even a small boost of income can pay really big dividends” throughout life, said Nikhita Airi, research analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. 

While the model used the bigger child tax credit enacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization would expect “similar results on a smaller scale” with the current version of the expansion, Airi said. 

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