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Why Connecticut parents and low-income residents could get a larger refund this year

The Biden administration is encouraging taxpayers to file their 2021 taxes to receive the full benefit of two newly expanded tax credits.
Daniel Acker
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Biden administration is encouraging taxpayers to file their taxes to receive the full benefit of two newly expanded tax credits.

Eligible parents who opted in last summer got an early cash infusion from Uncle Sam — they received the first half of an enhanced child tax credit. The Biden administration changed and expanded the tax credit as part of the American Rescue Plan to get money into Americans’ pockets as the pandemic wore on.

Speaking at a virtual “Tax Credit Day of Action” on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris said the second half of that credit comes with a condition: “You are owed more, but you still need to file your taxes.”

The child tax credit for 2021 is $3,600 per child under 6 years old and $3,000 per child between ages 6 and 17. Families who owe very little or no tax at all still get the full amount.

The Biden administration also temporarily expanded the earned income tax credit for tax year 2021. That credit — up to $1,500 — is available to eligible workers as young as 19 and older than 65.

“Right now, the best way, and really the only way to get people this money, is for them to file their taxes,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said during the event. She said that thanks to the expanded child tax credit, America saw the largest drop in childhood poverty in its history last year, and food instability among low-income families with children dropped 43%. “Filing taxes can be hard,” Yellen said, “and we’re talking about some of the hardest-to-reach people in this country.”

The White House says it expects approximately 17 million Americans could benefit from the expanded earned income tax credit. But AARP, which runs a free tax counseling service for low-income seniors, estimates that 20% of those eligible for the credit don’t claim it.

At Tuesday’s virtual event, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin encouraged filers to check their eligibility at ChildTaxCredit.gov and take advantage of the IRS’s free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. United Way of Connecticut administers many of the local VITA programs, which pair taxpayers with IRS-certified tax preparers. It’s available to filers earning generally less than $58,000, as well as persons with disabilities, and people with limited English language skills.

Taxpayers with questions about eligibility can call United Way of Connecticut’s number, at 2-1-1to find out how to book an in-person appointment or connect with online tax support. United Way also offers free assistance at MyFreeTaxes.com to households that earn less than $73,000. This year, for the first time, it’s offered in Spanish.

Corrected: February 14, 2022 at 1:54 PM EST
This piece has been changed to reflect that United Way of Connecticut administers some VITA locations in Connecticut, not all of them; and while the IRS sets a $58,000 income ceiling for VITA eligibility, many local VITA sites set a higher income ceiling. 
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.

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